Just over 10 years ago Ladywell community group LVIG ran a campaign to force owners E Coomes to renovate and let the double fronted flats above the Coral betting shop at 228-230 Algernon Rd in Ladywell Village.
The campaign even featured in architect George Clarke’s Channel 4 series, the Empty Homes Show, which aimed to raise awareness of the millions of British families in inadequate housing while homes remained empty.
The Ladywell programme (December 7 2011), hosted by Phil Spencer of Location, Location fame, helped Lewisham council put pressure on Coomes to renovate the property.
Coomes responded by fixing broken windows on the pigeon infested flats, mending the roof, and carrying out other repairs. There were even reports of bathrooms being fitted.
But despite all the talk from Coomes at the time that it was in the process of rationalising its property portfolio across south east London to generate capital and maximise rental income NOTHING HAPPENED!
The flats, above a landmark corner property in Ladywell, remained empty. They have now been empty for well over 20 years – 20 YEARS!!!
To make matters worse the retail unit is also empty since Coral’s lease ended. Coomes do not seem in any particular hurry to find a new business for the property.
What are Coomes playing at? It’s not their only empty property in south east London.
Is Lewisham Council really powerless to do anything about such a scandal?
Coomes have shown a readiness to ignore the demands and needs of the local community.
Only determined action by the local community and the council will force Coomes to act.
Next week is National Empty Homes Week (February 28-March 6) which aims to draw attention to the thousands of empty homes across the country at a time of increasing housing need. Surely it’s time to increase pressure on Coomes once again.
What do we know about E Coomes, owners of the empty Ladywell flats
Who are E Coomes, the owners of the freehold on the flats at 228-230 Algernon Road in Ladywell which have been kept empty for years?. Using available public records a former local government officer tells Ladywell-Live what he has found out.
Properties at 228-230 Algernon Road and 347-349 Lee High Road, with the exception of one flat at Lee High Road, have been empty for about 20 years.
They are owned by E.Coomes (Jersey) Limited and because the company is registered in Jersey it is not possible to know who actually owns it though it would be a reasonable to assume the owners are the same as other E.Coomes companies registered in the UK.
The address given for E.Coomes (Jersey) Ltd (incorporated in 1985) is Fifth Floor, 37 Esplanade, St Helier, Jersey. This is the address of a financial services company known as VG (formerly Volaw).
E. Coomes operated for many years as a Turf Accountant. They had a series of betting shops mainly in south east London and were not particularly concerned about the residential property above the shops.
At one time they may have regarded the occupation of the flats as a security risk.
E.Coomes no longer operates as a Turf Accountant but they have kept the freehold of most of the properties and derive some income from leasing the betting shops to the likes of Jennings Bet.
Public records show there remains a company known as E.Coomes (Holdings) Limited. It is registered at Companies House, Company no. 00832394, though it has not submitted accounts for many years.
The company was incorporated in December 1964 and its registered address is 65a Station Road, Edgware, HA8 7HX. The company currently has two directors: Peter Charles Tilby and Graham Victor Coomes.
Company Check, a database, shows Mr Coomes currently holds seven directorships at seven active companies. In the past he held 32 appointments at 32 companies since dissolved.
His longest current directorship is at E Coomes (Holdings) which he has held for almost 30 years.
A Corporate Voluntary Arrangement for insolvency was entered into by E Coomes (Holdings) in May 2011, completed February 2016. It is not known why insolvency could not have been avoided by selling some properties.
Accounts for the year ending March 31 2013 were filed in November 2021.
Mr Coomes active directorships are E Coomes (Holdings), Mirage Motor Sport, E Coomes (Norwood), E Coomes (South London), Stealth Leisure, Awesome Autosport, and Strongdri.
Peter Tilby is a director of four of these companies including Strongdri which is involved in mixed farming. It has the same registered address as E Coomes (Holdings).
Stealth Leisure has the same Edgware address, its directors are Graham Coomes and Gemma Alison Coomes.
They are both directors of Awesome Motor Sports and Mirage Motor Sport Limited. Graham Coomes is known to be a motor racing enthusiast. Both companies are involved in marketing motorsports products.
Awesome Autosport’s registered address is 97 Weigall Road london SE12
E.Coomes’ greatest asset is probably the former office building at 100 Anchor and Hope Lane in Charlton which is currently subject to proposals for extensive redevelopment in that area.
The Company Check database shows that the net worth of E Coomes (Holdings) is £3.1m, E Coomes (South London) is £2.1m and Stealth Leisure – main business gambling and betting – is £6.5m.
There’s a housing crisis – but theses two flats have been empty for years
Ladywell-Live 2019 – In 2011, the Ladywell Village Improvement Group ran a determined campaign to have the empty flats above the Coral betting shop on 228-230 Algernon Road renovated and brought back into use.
With the involvement of Nick Long, the council’s empty homes officer, and the help of TV celebrity Phil Spencer, LVIG’s campaign seemed to be making some headway.
E Coomes Ltd, the company which leases the building to Coral, agreed to improve the long-neglected flats.
That was more than eight years ago. But guess what … the flats are still standing empty.
“With pressure mounting for affordable homes across London it seems astonishing that these two flats can be left empty for around 20 years,” says Cllr Liz Johnston-Franklin.
“Two perfectly good properties should not be allowed to go to waste in an area where there is so much demand for housing,” she added.
With growing numbers of families in temporary accomodation and on housing waiting lists, housing charity Shelter says 1,2m homes are needed in Britain for younger families who cannot afford to buy.
Around 3m new social homes must be built over the next 20 years, it says.
LVIG first raised the alarm over the empty two bed properties in 2008.
The landmark flats above Coral on the corner of Ladywell and Algernon Roads had been empty for around 10 years at that point.
They were in a poor condition, with broken windows, peeling paint and a deteriorating roof. They were reported to be infested with pigeons.
The council served an environmental health order on the properties due to the pigeons.
Mr Long also sought an interim empty dwelling management order in a bid to force E Coomes to repair and let the property.
LVIG had been writing to Coral and Coomes to complain about the property but to little avail.
Then in November 2011, LVIG’s campaign became the subject of a short Channel 4 programme hosted by Location, Location, Location’s Phil Spencer.
The coverage of the campaign and the pressure seemed to do the trick.
Coomes said it was looking at improving flats above three betting shops in the borough – 228-330 Algernon Road, 347-349 Lee High Road and 357 Sydenham Road.
Coomes indicated that it would start work on six flats above its Lee property. Once completed, rental income from these flats would be used to renovate the flats above Corals in Ladywell.
Some work did take place on the Algernon Road flats.
The windows were repaired and painted, roof repairs were carried out and there was unconfirmed talk of toilets and baths being carried into the properties.
Bur since then nothing has happened.
Mr Long says Coomes have told him again that once the Lee High Road scheme has been completed and is generating an income they will turn their attention back to the Ladywell flats.
Eight years have passed since LVIG’s campaign elicited a response from Coomes and some work took place. But there is little sign of any further progress being made on the Ladywell flats.
“Hopefully they will resume work and complete the stalled project,” says Mr Long.
“I have no issues of disrepair, fly tipping or nuisance being caused by these flats – no real complaints from local traders. I have a very poor hand to play on this one,” he adds.
It seems that until the local community (residents and businesses) takes determined action to force change nothing very much will happen.
Adds Mr Long: “I will ask my colleagues to ensure these two units are brought back into “rating” as the dwellings have been substantially improved and should no longer be given an exemption.
Lewisham “can charge them 300 per cent of the council tax – hopefully this will focus minds.”