High rise living is the tops, say residents at Telford flats
"Are you worried about the fire?" "No!" chorused the residents of Apley Court in reply at their weekly Wednesday coffee morning in the communal room.
Apley Court is an eight-storey – nine if you count the ground floor – block of flats in Wellington, so there is no need to explain what I mean by "the fire." It is one of just a handful of high-rise buildings in Shropshire.
"This is the safest place in Telford," says Brenda Needham from the sixth floor.
"I've been here since 2003. I don't want to be anywhere else. There are beautiful views of the Welsh hills."
Margaret Bates from the fifth floor says: "I've been here seven years, and wouldn't go anywhere else. It's home."
"I think it's a brilliant place. You are independent, but if you want company you can come down here," says Barbara Farmer from the eighth floor.
Apley Court is brick-finished, without cladding, and I am here at the invitation of Barbara, who has proudly shown me around her roomy flat on the top floor, with its magnificent views.
Only a short distance away is the site of the Haughmond Court block of flats, which is currently being redeveloped.
"It was knocked down three years ago. They're building 12 bungalows there now," she says.
"They said it was too expensive to refurbish it. It only had one lift. We have two lifts."
She has lived at Apley Court since 2003 and her daughter lives across the hallway.
Mrs Farmer is German, having been brought up in Kassel, and says: "In Germany most people live in flats. In Germany I always lived in flats, except when I was young and lived on my grandma's estate in a great big country house.
"My daughter and I love it here. We all get on very well here on the top floor and, on the whole, the atmosphere is very, very good.
"We are sheltered housing, with somebody downstairs in the office from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm or 5.30pm, like a warden - they're called a retirement living co-ordinator, or something like that. Anyone can move in here from 55 onwards. The majority are women - widows and single women. The landlord is Wrekin Housing Trust.
"There are 51 flats, although the numbers go up to 52 as there is no 13, so I would say there are about 75 residents, as there are some couples.
"Our alarms are checked every week from downstairs for the whole building. We also have smoke detectors in every room. Quite apart from that, we haven't got the building material that they had at Grenfell Tower - here it's bricks.
"The people from the fire service have been and checked everything and they're coming again.
"We have people here up to 100 years old and when they saw that on the television, naturally they were worried, but it's mainly in the big cities where they use that material.
"A very charming young man from the fire service came and said they had checked and there was nothing for us to worry about. We do not have sprinklers. We have had new fire resistant doors. The fire service are coming again on July 19 to check every single flat."
Mrs Farmer, who is 78, says: "Having lived most of my life in flats, although never this high up, it doesn't bother me. I love it up here. You should see the sunsets. There is one disadvantage - the noise of the wind on very windy days. But you get used to it.
"The nice thing about these flats is you still have some space. The modern flats are so small. I have two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, and bathroom."