People living in a Stevenage flat block shrouded in scaffolding and thick plastic sheeting for more than a year "haven't had any daylight at all" in their homes, causing mental health problems, one resident has warned.

Doctor Sophie Knowles, of Blythe Close in Stevenage, lives in Aneurin Bevan Court - a flat block which is part of Stevenage Borough Council’s Major Refurbishment Contract.

The contract includes refurbishment of all the local authority’s 550 low and medium-rise flat blocks and began in 2018 with Longmeadow, Old Town and Roebuck areas.

The programme of work - which could include roof replacements, structural repairs, window replacements and rewiring - had been due to end in 2023, but has been extended to 2025 due to delays caused by the Covid-19 lockdown.

Scaffolding was erected at Aneurin Bevan Court in August 2022, with thick plastic sheeting wrapped around the scaffolding in February last year.

However, work on the roof only started in January this year, and Dr Knowles says living in the flat block has been challenging.

"We have been wrapped in a thick plastic for over a year now, which has meant we haven't had any daylight at all," she said.

"It's causing mental health problems and, for some leaseholders, they can't retire or move on with their lives. They've been left in a very dark limbo.

"I have asked for a rationale for the thick plastic for months now. It was a very careless decision, and one they have not cared to rectify for a year. 

"The impact has been profound for everyone, and the council and companies carrying out the work really don't give a damn.

"The works are costing some around £20k during a cost-of-living-crisis.

"These leaseholders have worked their whole lives for these homes, and many are pensioners. They are devastated and powerless."

The council’s Major Refurbishment Contract affect 3,850 flats - 1,287 of which are privately owned. The council says it expects to cover up to 80 per cent of the total cost of the works, but leaseholders are liable for the remainder, which amounts to an average estimated bill of about £14,000 per flat for leaseholders.

SBC has previously come under fire for not providing ongoing maintenance to avoid the need for such a huge programme of works, but the local authority blamed government funding cuts.

A spokesperson for Stevenage Borough Council said: "Unfortunately, the works at Aneurin Bevan Court have taken longer than initially anticipated.

"Safety is our number one concern and, to ensure the appropriate safety inspections could be undertaken, there was a need for complex scaffolding to be erected.

"Upon undertaking this inspection, further essential works were identified around fire safety and building regulations too, with additional scaffolding being erected to enable these intrusive inspections to take place.

"There were only a limited number of accredited contractors available that were qualified to carry out the additional works and, after the initial company was unable to complete them, there was a delay in sourcing a second firm to progress these - which commenced again in January 2024, after the Christmas period.

"A comprehensive letter was sent to all tenants and leaseholders in Aneurin Bevan Court, explaining, and apologising for the delays.

"Subject to the works progressing as they should, we hope that these will be completed by March 2025."