Only Fools and Horses

I live in iconic Only Fools and Horses tower block… it’s riddled with mould & rotten ceilings but council refuses to act

IT served as the famous backdrop for Del Boy’s flat, seen by millions in the legendary sitcom Only Fools And Horses.

But Harlech Tower, which was one of the buildings use to film the BBC show’s fictional Peckham residence, Nelson Mandela House, is due to be demolished as part of an £800million rejuvenation project.

Harlech Tower was one of the building used for the filming of Only Fools And Horses

Harlech Tower was one of the building used for the filming of Only Fools And HorsesCredit: Darren Fletcher
Harlech Tower was used in the TV sitcom Only Fools And Horses

Harlech Tower was used in the TV sitcom Only Fools And HorsesCredit: BBC

Sir David Jason once said the iconic spot, which is actually in Acton, west London, was “the crucible, if you will, for the Only Fools story” and called for it to become a listed building.

It was the residence pictured in the famous title sequence, though as the series grew in popularity, filming for later series was relocated to Bristol.

Harlech Tower, along with other residences, will be bulldozed for 3,500 new homes, community facilities, retail spaces and green spaces – but locals aren’t happy.

Many told The Sun that while they would be open to leaving their “dangerous and mouldy” flats, they fear homelessness due to being unable to afford the price of living in new builds.

Others say the area is plagued by a “drug industry” and drinking culture that leaves them fearing for their families’ safety.

Black mould & sewage

Just a half mile’s walk from Acton Town tube station, past peaceful tree-lined streets, stand three large greying tower blocks – Harlech, Beaumaris and Corfe.

The construction of Harlech finished in 1969 and it is clear it has seen better days.

The tower has a shabby exterior and one seventh-floor balcony was charred by fire damage. Others are decorated, including one with colourful light bulbs that hang from the netting like a Christmas tree.

But after speaking to residents, the problems are considerably worse than imagined and they claim to have been “abandoned” by the council who don’t deal with repairs.

Tirhas Berihu says she 'can't afford' to move from her flat

Tirhas Berihu says she ‘can’t afford’ to move from her flatCredit: Darren Fletcher
Leaking water and sewage tore a hole in her ceiling

Leaking water and sewage tore a hole in her ceilingCredit: Darren Fletcher

NHS worker Tirhas Berihu, 35, who has lived here for 12 years, claims water damage from a leak has remained since 2020 and mould is rife.

Inside her flat, she shows us the damp spots in her bathroom that have torn a hole through the ceiling and regularly drips with water.

Pulling back the curtain in one of the bedrooms, large patches of black mould can easily be seen.

It has caused Tirhas such concern that she moved her children out of the room because she feared it was impacting their health.

She tells us: “My house is full of damp and mould. My children, especially my little one, became ill and has asthma.

“I’ve got black mould and the bathroom is leaking water and wastage but when I’ve called the council, they say I have to fix and pay for it myself.

“The builds are really old and I think it will cost a lot, so they don’t want to do it. If you withhold your rent they will kick you out.

“I was asked, ‘How do you live here?’ but I haven’t got a choice, if you can’t afford to move you have to live here.”

Tirhas says there are “mixed feelings” about the redevelopment because while they would love modern housing they fear it’s too expensive.

She says: “The new houses are not affordable for people like us, we’re not on a really high wage. If you earn £26,000 a year you can’t afford £250 a week in rent.

Black mould covers the walls in both of Tirhas' bedrooms

Black mould covers the walls in both of Tirhas’ bedroomsCredit: Darren Fletcher
There's also black mould behind her kids' beds and around the corners of the ceiling

There’s also black mould behind her kids’ beds and around the corners of the ceilingCredit: Darren Fletcher

“That’s why so many people have refused the offer. In one building, there are only three people living there. They refuse to move because they can’t afford to.”

She references Yacob Woldehiwot, who refused to leave his one-bedroom flat because he claims the council undervalued his property when trying to buy him out.

Yacob, who couldn’t speak to The Sun due to being involved in legal action, isn’t alone – and Tirhas predicts the same issue will happen in Harlech Tower.

She’s not the only one facing problems here. Business owner Aubi Safiullah, 60, also claims inaction from the council has caused issues.

He tells us: “For the last four or five months there’s been a massive leak that’s affected six flats including my flat too.

“Residents aren’t happy because the council haven’t done anything and say no one is helping them.

“Finally one guy stopped the leaking water a few days ago but still my walls have water dripping from the ceiling and damp. Other flats were flooded.”

Aubi’s family bought the flat he lives in from the council 28 years ago and says he’s heard “no further news” about a demolition date.

Uncertaintly about when they will have to move is a common theme among those living in Harlech Tower.

Aubi Safiullah says a leak damaged four floors of the tower and wasn't solved quickly enough

Aubi Safiullah says a leak damaged four floors of the tower and wasn’t solved quickly enoughCredit: Darren Fletcher
Inside Harlech Tower, where residents claims the lifts rarely work and it looks tatty

Inside Harlech Tower, where residents claims the lifts rarely work and it looks tattyCredit: Darren Fletcher

‘Waste of money’

Office manager Natalia Onyszko, 25, admits it’s “hard to know exactly when or if” it will be knocked down.

She claims residents who own their flats have been made offers but “they don’t give a good price” and that new flats are “much smaller and more expensive”.

While Natalia is reluctant to see the home she’s lived in since birth knocked down, she admits Harlech Tower is “a bit s***” and has problems.

She says: “The service charges always go up in price but the lifts are always breaking and the paint is peeling in the hallways.

“Money has been spent on pointless things like redoing the buttons on the front door, which is pointless if it’s being knocked down.”

But not all residents are sad to see the building go. Student Khodor Kassem believes demolition is “way overdue”.

“It’s time to move on and build new places,” the 17-year-old says. “Everyone agrees the building should come down, the main issue is rehousing.

“It’s home and is decent but some of our neighbours are noisy. We often hear a woman who shouts a lot because there isn’t enough soundproofing.”

‘Shot at by teens’

Directly opposite Harlech Tower is a construction site filled with piles of rubble, scrap metal heaps and dust.

While the area has a litter and flytipping problem, it seems to have its own well-running ecosystem thanks to council services that remove rubbish within a day.

Inside the construction site opposite Harlech Tower

Inside the construction site opposite Harlech TowerCredit: Josh Saunders
Plenty of furniture is dumped in the area but it's soon cleaned up by the council

Plenty of furniture is dumped in the area but it’s soon cleaned up by the councilCredit: Josh Saunders

Nearby a local worker, who did not want to be named fearing he would lose his job, is optimistic that the local area will become “a really nice place”.

He welcomes the upcoming changes after being on the receiving end of “some unpleasant situations”.

“There’s clearly a drug industry operating here,” he says. “I’ve also seen a samurai sword and a Gurkha kukri, which is a curved blade like a machete.

“The day after I spotted the kukri, I was shot at with an air rifle. It wasn’t a bullet but something hit me. There are three kids in particular in the tower block that I’m convinced were involved.”

Despite the shocking ordeal, the worker says the area’s worst problem is excessive litter, which “appears overnight” despite regular council clean-up services.

He says: “I think it’s groups of young people congregating to drink beer and use drugs. They just throw stuff down on the floor.

“There are plenty of bins but then you see things that are too big shoved in there too like cardboard boxes and pizza boxes.”

Homelessness fears

The problems faced by those living in Harlech Tower are experienced by others living in the neighbouring two blocks, which are also due to be demolished.

One lady, who didn’t want to be named, says residents of Beaumaris Tower “feared homelessness” due to the evictions.

Meanwhile, Madina Ibrahimy, 38, says she “can’t wait to leave” and has been urgently trying to get a bigger council flat without any luck.

Madina Ibrahimy (left) shows how her kids have to sleep because there are six of them living in a two-bed council flat

Madina Ibrahimy (left) shows how her kids have to sleep because there are six of them living in a two-bed council flat
Black mould inside Madina's flat

Black mould inside Madina’s flatCredit: Supplied

There are six people living in her two-bedroom flat, in Beaumaris Tower, which is plagued with mould, dampness and leaks.

“The council doesn’t care,” says the mum-of-four, who works as a makeup artist in Harrods.

“I’ve sent them photos of the mould and cracks in the ceilings with water coming down but no one has responded.

“Previously, they said they would do something but they haven’t. It’s council housing and the building is old. No one cares.”

She shows us photographs of the damage and another that reveals how three of her children sleep – all huddled together on two make-shift mattresses.

Madina says: “My kids all sleep in one room because we don’t have space for them, it’s really hard for their mental health and they don’t have a space to study.”

Since moving into the flat in 2010, she’s seen the area “change a lot” and says it “was a worse estate” when they arrived.

However, she claims problems including drugs, drinking, knife crime and anti-social behaviour still persist.

Madina says: “There used to be a lot of druggie people who would be out on the corridors drinking.

“When I used to drop my children off at school, there were people who were already drunk and would start shouting at us, which scared my children.

“They had bottles with them and slept in the corridors, even though there are locks on the doors to stop them from coming in.

Water droplets leaking from the ceiling in Madina's

Water droplets leaking from the ceiling in Madina’sCredit: Supplied
Black mould that covers sections of Madina's bathroom

Black mould that covers sections of Madina’s bathroomCredit: Supplied

“You always smell smoke in the corridors too and now that my kids are teenagers I’m worried because I don’t want them to be like them.

“There’s a lot of knife crime around, a lot of drinking and teenagers trying to sell drugs to each other.

“I try as much as I can to control my children but it’s hard when it’s all around you because they will meet them outside or at football.”

‘Iconic tower’

Steve Clark, author of Only Fools And Horses: The Official Story, tells us the building’s exterior was used for filming and the Trotters’ flat was based on measurements from inside.

In his book, producer Gareth Gwenlan recalled a 1996 trip to Acton: “We had to have the police with us all the time.

“The back of Acton is not a very pleasant area and you could never film there at night because things would probably get nicked.”

Steve believes the “should definitely be a permanent plaque” in tribute to the show.

He tells us: “The Only Fools and Horses opening titles are very much a part of British TV history and Harlech Tower is iconic.”

Previously, TV channel Gold launched a petition to install a gold statue of Del Boy, but it only got 2,720 signatures.

The Trotters' was partially modelled on flats inside Harlech Tower

The Trotters’ was partially modelled on flats inside Harlech TowerCredit: PA:Press Association
Sir David Jason filming Only Fools outside one of several buildings used for Nelson Mandela House

Sir David Jason filming Only Fools outside one of several buildings used for Nelson Mandela HouseCredit: BBC

The Sun contacted Ealing Council who claimed they were not aware of the issues inside the Harlech Tower and Beaumaris Tower flats.

They said they would arrange for an inspector and tenant management organisation visit to “assess the properties and take any necessary remedial action”.

An Ealing Council spokesperson said Acton Gardens was “one of London’s biggest council homebuilding programmes” and stated 1,250 of the 3,400 homes would be social housing.

They told us: “There will be twice as many homes on the estate than before the regeneration started, and almost a third more affordable housing, which is partly funded by the sale of other new homes.

“We are aware of the issues that residents face as a result of the poor quality of the existing homes, which is one of the reasons it is important to us that we are replacing the existing housing with enough new social housing to accommodate all existing residents who want to continue living on the estate.”

They added: “We continue to work with residents to facilitate their moves, and to arrange to buy back leasehold properties. We anticipate that will be completed by 2027.”

They said there was “overwhelming support for the estate’s development” during the consultation process with 90 per cent of 700 respondents in favour.

They added: “Residents of the estate are regularly kept up-to-date with progress.”

Since The Sun contacted Ealing Council, Tirhas and Madina have been contacted to investigate problems inside their homes.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button