Sunderland pensioner faces a 20-minute walk just to get outside!

After leaving her flat, Audrey starts out on the long walk along the first corridor to get to the Bridges shopping Centre.

After leaving her flat, Audrey starts out on the long walk along the first corridor to get to the Bridges shopping Centre.

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EXHAUSTED pensioner Audrey Thompson needs a lift – after she says maintenance work left her facing a “20-minute hike” to get out of her tower block.

The 74-year-old said Planet House, in Sunderland city centre, has had just one working lift for the past two-and-a-half years.

One of the Gentoo signs

One of the Gentoo signs

The problem, she said, has left elderly residents no choice but to walk the extra distance to reach the lift – negotiating a maze of corridors to get to the other side of the building – or tackle the stairs to get out to the Bridges shopping centre below.

Mrs Thompson claimed the tower block, built in 1969, has become an “abandoned planet”, with tenants “forgotten” by property firm Gentoo.

“It will be three years at Christmas that this has been going on,” she said. “We have had to find our own way out and our own way in.

“The new lift is here and they said it would be working in two months’ time, but it keeps getting held up.

“There are some really old people living here and they struggle to climb those big stone steps or to walk the long distance to get to the lift.

“You used to see people out and about all of the time, but now no one goes anywhere unless they have to.

“I keep kicking up a fuss because we need something to happen.”

Mrs Thompson said some neighbours have been forced to move out because of the situation.

“It’s not just that though, we keep getting horrible people in our flats, like thieves and drug addicts who hide in here,” she said.

“They must pretend they are visiting someone to get in.”

Michelle Meldrum, deputy director of Gentoo Sunderland, said: “These essential re-surfacing works in the service area of Planet House have been planned for some time.

“We have consulted with our residents on an individual basis to identify any issues they may need assistance with during this time.

“In addition, there are a number of other works being carried out in the wider area by other organisations.

“We continue to work closely with residents, other agencies and contractors to make sure things run as smooth as possible for our customers.”

Twitter: @sunderlandecho