Elderly residents at high-rise Leeds flats ‘prisoners in their own homes’ due to failing lifts

Residents outside Sherburn Court in Swarcliffe. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Residents outside Sherburn Court in Swarcliffe. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

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Faulty lifts in an east Leeds sheltered housing block are causing some elderly residents to become “prisoners in their own homes”, it is claimed.

People living at Sherburn Court, in Swarcliffe, claim some residents in the 82-flat complex have been left trapped and had to be rescued building’s ageing elevators, leaving some effectively stuck in their high-rise homes.

Anne Cockrem (centre) and other residents at Sherburn Court in Swarcliffe. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

Anne Cockrem (centre) and other residents at Sherburn Court in Swarcliffe. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

The 14-storey 1960s complex was renovated in 2009 by private finance initative contractor Yorkshire Transformations Ltd (YTL) but the building’s lifts were not replaced.

The protracted dispute between residents and YTL has climaxed over the last two years.

This has prompted local c ouncillor Peter Gruen (Lab, Cross Gates and Whinmoor) to call on the “indifferent” company to act. Anne Cockrem, 70, uses the lift from her second floor flat regularly because she often uses a mobility scooter due to inflammatory back condition spondylitis.

“It worries people,” she said. “There is a lady with heart conditions and breathing problems and she gets in the lift with her fingers crossed.

“Some of these people in their 70s and 80s are prisoners in their own homes if they can’t get down.”

She added that the issue has remained unresolved “year after year” despite several of her elderly neighbours finding themselves trapped in the lifts for as long as 45 minutes in recent months.

Two lifts service separate parts of the building, meaning if one is out of action effectively half of the building has no access to a lift.

Sherburn Court’s flats were redecorated and refitted during a renovation as part of a PFI deal endorsed by Leeds City Council and carried out by contractors YTL seven years ago.

Coun Gruen explained that the council has agreed that the lifts have “come to the end of their useful life” and has been pushing YTL to fit replacements for two years.

He said: “They have broken down a number of times and elderly residents have been stuck, needing to be rescued, which is clearly a very frightening experience.”

Coun Gruen added: “I hope we can now quickly move towards this work being completed. I frankly cannot see the reason for any further delay.”

Kimberley Atkins, YTL general manager, said: “We have been and would like to continue to work with Leeds City Council and PFI funders in order for this lift to be replaced and to provide a better service to the residents of Sherburn Court.”