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

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London County Council 1912

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]

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Report of the County Medical Officer—General.

Metropolitan borough.No. of houses inspected.No. of houses dealt with under Section 15.No. of representations, 1912.No. of closing orders, 1912.No. of houses, defeots remedied without closing orders.No. of houses, defeots remedied after closing orders.No. of houses demolished.Remarks.
Hampstead5791 underground room closed.
Islington9101212127 demolished, April,1913.
Kensington4419102268 empty houses. Tenants evicted by owners.
Lambeth1,57627444446627 demolished voluntarily. 1 disputed ownership.
Paddington38111314111 demolition orders.
St. Marylebone1,5861291415 basement rooms closed by magistrate.
St. Pancras245245
Stepney9 houses closed under the Act.
Stoke Newington561
Wandsworth2,674Defects dealt with under P.H. (L.) Act.
Westminster, City of1713974 voluntarily closed.
Woolwich489546Including 3 closing orders under Section 17 (7). Underground rooms.

Some further information which cannot be put into tabular form is contained in some of the
reports as to the working of the Housing Acts, and as to their uses and difficulties. For instance, Dr.
Lennane mentions the fact that 21 underground rooms were closed by means of orders under Section
17 (7) of the Housing, Town Planning Act, 1909. In Fulham 3 houses were demolished during the
year for which closing orders had been issued in 1911. In Hampstead in one case only was it necessary
to issue a closing order, and that was in respect of an underground room. In Holborn, too, only one
closing order was made. This order was not determined inasmuch as the owner undertook to use the
premises for storage purposes. Dr. Sandilands discusses the hardship entailed under the Acts whereby
an owner is faced with the problem of renovating houses, the expense of which would not be justified
by the rents obtainable, or, alternatively, of being bound by a closing order to forego the opportunity
of converting the houses into business premises and awaiting an order for demolition. In Kensington,
therefore, no notices have been served where the owner undertakes that the houses shall not be again
used for human habitation, and houses have been allowed to remain empty until they are required for
other purposes.
Dr. Dudfield mentions a defect in the machinery of the Housing Acts observed in Paddington.
In certain instances, after the service of closing orders it was necessary to take proceedings against the
tenants to compel them to quit. The owner did his best to persuade the tenants to remain, and when
a house became vacant another family was put in occupation. Dr. Dudfield states that there appears
to be no power in any of the Housing Acts to deal with such action on the part of the owner. Dr.
Porter gives details of the circumstances leading to the closure of the 5 basement rooms in St. Maryle
bone mentioned in the above table. These rooms formed the sleeping apartments of the staff of a large
private hotel. Before the provisions of Section 17 (7) of the Housing, Town Planning Act came into
force the owner had been advised to discontinue their use as sleeping rooms. He did not adopt this
suggestion, but carried out certain improvements. Later, closing orders were made under the Act,
but the borough council found it necessary to appeal to a magistrate for enforcement. Summonses
were issued against the owner and his servants in order to cover any difficulty that might arise as to
responsibility. As it happened, the owner alone appeared, and an order was made directing compliance.
The use of the rooms was thereupon discontinued.
In Stoke Newington the houses in several streets were inspected under the Act and the Housing
(Inspection of District) Regulations, 1910, issued by the Local Government Board. All the defects
found, however, were remediable under the procedure for the abatement of nuisances. In Westminster
4 underground rooms were closed under Section 17 (7.) With regard to Woolwich Dr. Davies states
that considerable action has been taken under Section 17, that no difficulty has arisen, and apparently
no hardship has been caused. No action has been taken in Woolwich under Section 15.