London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Camberwell 1937

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Camberwell.

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The stage has now been reached when it seems appropriate to invite your
Committee to review the question of clearance operations in the Borough with a
view of sanctioning the preparation of a further insanitary areas programme on
similar lines to the programme which has received attention.
In my opinion it is impossible to prepare a clearance area programme to
operate from a given date which, on completion, would dispose of every unfit
house in the Borough.
As I see the position, these operations must continue until a standard is
reached below which a dwelling of a type suitable for working-class occupation
can be said to be unfit, no longer exists.
It is obvious that working-class houses in the Borough built shortly after
those which have been the subject of clearance area procedure, and possessing
similar undesirable features of construction, which at the present time yield to
repair treatment, must sooner or later fail to conform to a satisfactory standard.
Accordingly my departmental procedure in this matter has been to cause
periodical housing surveys to be carried out, and to keep records of "potential"
clearance areas for official action at the appropriate time.
There are at least a dozen small areas in Camberwell involving approximately
125 dwelling houses of an age and type similar to those previously dealt with
within the terms of the Housing Acts, which at some time or other during the course
of the next five years should be considered for action in accordance with the
provisions of Section 25 of the Housing Act, 1936. In this connection, I am
prepared to submit official representations forthwith in respect of three of these
areas, that the dwelling houses therein are unfit for human habitation.
It should be remembered that before a Medical Officer of Health represents
an area for clearance purposes, he must satisfy himself that the most satisfactory
method of dealing with the conditions in the area is the demolition of all the
buildings in the area.
Finally, I deem it necessary to refer to the obligation which devolves upon
the Council to provide re-housing accommodation for persons to be displaced from
working-class houses. The previous Council made an arrangement with the
London County Council to supply such accommodation on payment by this
Council of the sum of £1 17s. 6d. per year for a period of 40 years for every dwelling
Your obedient Servant,
H. W. BARNES, Medical Officer of Health.
Individual Houses Repairable at Reasonable Cost.
During the year 279 informal notices were served requiring
repairs to be carried out at houses occupied by members of the
working class, and in 35 cases the service of a formal notice under
the provisions of Section 9 of the Housing Act, 1936, was necessary.
The number of premises in the Borough repaired during the twelve
months ended December last was 252 —190 as the result of informal
action, 57 following the service of a formal notice, and in 5 instances
by the Council carrying out the works in default of the owner.
Underground Rooms.
In 1934 a survey was carried out by the Sanitary Inspectors
for the purpose of providing information as to the number of