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Lawyers demand proof Chalcots estate is safe as residents raise fears over going home

Hundreds told they must return home this week, but many say they still feel unsafe

20 July, 2017 — By William McLennan

Residents evacuated from tower blocks want evidence they are now safe

LAWYERS representing residents of the Chalcots estate have sent a strongly-worded legal warning to Camden Council demanding that they are not forced to move back home before being provided with proof the tower blocks have been made safe.

Hundreds of families have now been told to return, but many have so far refused and instead drawn up a list of demands they want to be met before they move back to the tower blocks in Adelaide Road which were evacuated at a moment’s notice after a number of fire safety failings were discovered.

The Town Hall has published a statement from the London Fire Brigade and a letter from Lambeth Council surveyors stating that the works are satisfactory, but residents say they have lost trust in the authorities and are demanding to be shown independent and detailed evidence.

Jayesh Kunwardia, a partner at law firm Hodge Jones and Allen, is representing several residents who do not feel safe moving back home. He has written to the council asking for full details of all the works that have been carried out and evidence to confirm that the flats are now safe.

He said: “I think residents should not be forced to go back without clear evidence to show what works took place and what works are continuing and on what authority [Camden Council] make its decision to move people back; who are they relying on in terms of expert material evidence to show that the properties are safe?”

Letizia Esposito, who lives in one of the towers, has been told she must return home before the council cancel temporary accommodation for her and her children on Friday.

She said: “I don’t feel safe because there isn’t much difference from when we were evacuated. I know Camden and Lambeth said it was safe, but I think we need someone independent, who is not from another council. We need to see the evidence. People don’t want to go back to their homes because they don’t feel safe.”

The estate has been flooded with construction workers, addressing the safety failings, but residents have been documenting any mistakes in the work which have not helped to restore trust.

Much of the work has been done in order to make the homes safe to return to as quickly as possible, such as adding sealants around the edge of glass panels in communal fire doors and fitting new letter boxes to front doors.

Ms Espositio said: “It has been a little bit botched. The fire-resistant paste was coming off the doors. The doors have not been replaced, just fixed up a little bit.”

Michelle Urquhart added: “I don’t want to go back at all. I’ve lost all trust in the council.”

Nevenka Martin, who lives in Taplow, said: “It’s a sense of violation. This sense that the home is not ours any longer. That they can barge in and do to our house whatever they see fit without communication, without showing us the paperwork.”

Council leader Georgia Gould said: “We made a decision voluntarily to evacuate the buildings on the firm advice of the fire services. We only started to move people back in on the fire service’s advice. We have moved quickly to do the works, knowing how disruptive it is to people to be out of their homes, so we said from the outset that we would do things as quickly as possible, but I think we have done them safely as well. We have had people on site checking the works and had the fire services and other local authorities checking them.

“Some people really did want to go home and really did appreciate that, but I completely recognise that there is a lot of fear and a lot of distress and a real desire to understand this, so we have taken that extra precaution of getting other local authorities in to give that extra reassurance.”

Cllr Gould will be holding a number of drop-in sessions at the Chalcots alongside Conservative ward councillors, the first of which will take place from 10am to 3pm at Burnham on Saturday (July 22) .

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