A father claims his family is forced to sleep in freezing temperatures and experienced a dangerous gas leak because of severe subsidence at their council flat.

Christopher Haigh, 47, of The Drive, Walthamstow, says he has complained to Waltham Forest Council for years about the flat he has lived in since 1995.

Subsidence has caused huge cracks in the wall of his front room, where he sleeps with his wife so his daughter can have the warmer bedroom.

The fissures are now so wide the couple can see through them to the garden outside.

Mr Haigh recently had a hip operation and says he had to be readmitted to hospital after sleeping in sub-zero temperatures and damp conditions made him ill.

He added: “Even with the heating on full blast it can get to minus two degrees at night.

“I have been trying to contact the council about this for years. At first they sent surveyors round, who said the condition of the flat was one of the worst they had seen, but they could not do anything about it.”

Mr Haigh’s 15-year-old daughter suffers from anxiety and attends a special school. He fears the living conditions are dangerous for her.

The state of the house is so bad that Mr Haigh claims that earlier this year the subsidence caused the mains gas pipe into his home to rupture.

He says his family could have died from carbon monoxide inhalation if his alarm had not gone off.

He said: “It has been very stressful, it was very lucky that we had a carbon monoxide alarm earlier this year. I think without that, in two hours we could have died.”

Attempts to stop the subsidence have become worse, Mr Haigh claims, and he says the council is now doing nothing to help.

He added: “They tried putting joists in under the front room, but it has become worse since then.

“I spoke to one council officer, rang him repeatedly and he came over once, saying he would send people around to help, but nobody ever came.

“I called again and he refused to speak to me, saying he could not do anything and he was too busy.”

Ten years ago, Mr Haigh says he won a court case against Waltham Forest Council for failing to fix his home and was awarded £5,200 in compensation – he says the authority did not pay this and he only received £2,900 after he hired a lawyer to chase the funds.

Waltham Forest Council did not respond to a request for comment.