Chalcots residents demand independent proof that homes are safe
As first families are asked to move home, many say they no longer trust Camden Council
13 July, 2017 — By William McLennan
Dangerous gaps around gas pipes have now been filled in
RESIDENTS evacuated from the Chalcots estate say they have lost faith in Camden Council and are demanding independent verification that the tower blocks are safe before they move back home.
Families on the lower floors have been told they can return by the end of this week, but many say they have yet to be reassured that all the fire safety risks have been addressed.
Sasha Martin, a Taplow resident who has been working voluntarily alongside Robert Kukaj to support their neighbours, said: “I’m not going back to the block and I don’t think anyone should go back to the block until independent surveyors have said this is ok. Why should we trust what they say or who they are employing to do this work?”
Many say they have lost trust in the ability of the council after it was revealed that the towers were covered in flammable cladding, similar to that which has come under the spotlight after the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy which claimed the lives of more than 80 people.
Camden Council sent samples of the cladding for fire safety testing after the tragedy and learned on June 21 that it had failed and was found to contain a flammable core made of the plastic polyethylene.
The next day, residents were assured their homes were safe but a thorough inspection by the London Fire Brigade found a litany of other safety failings and led to mass evacuation at a moment’s notice on June 23.
Fire risk assessment reports were made public last night (Wednesday), confirming New Journal reports in recent weeks about its contents: that the towers were regarded a “moderate” risk and that key issues were not recorded.
Mandy Ryan, who lives on the 23rd floor, said: “I don’t feel safe going back there. I don’t trust them. People aren’t trusting the council anymore.”
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. In one case, the intercom, which allows residents on upper floors to grant access to visitors, was rendered useless when workmen cut through wires.
Chnoor Noori Jafar, who has lived in Taplow since 1997, said: “I think we need a proper certificate for each house.
“People have lost trust and confidence. It is really scary when you have something like Grenfell happen and you are in a similar situation. It could have been us.”
Fire brigade inspectors visited the tower blocks on Tuesday and said in a statement: “There will be further work to undertake but the brigade is content that sufficient progress has been made to allow a phased re-occupation of the buildings.”
The key concern raised by the brigade related to the incorrect installation of gas mains pipes, that travel vertically between floors. Gaps around the edges of pipes had breached “compartmentation” and meant smoke and flames could move through the building.
These gaps have now been filled in with a “intumescent seal”, which expands when heated. Work is also underway
to shore up existing fire doors in communal areas, while self-closing mechanisms have been fitted to front doors. Many front doors are due to be replaced with high-specification fire doors in coming days and work is due to begin to remove and replace the cladding in coming weeks.
Council leader Georgia Gould said: “The reassurance that I have had is that the fire services have come and checked the works and said that they feel that immediate, urgent works that caused them to recommend evacuation have been acted on and that we can start moving people back in.
“We have had our own building control looking at it, but also building control from Redbridge and Lambeth, acting as that extra check and reassurance for us and for residents that those works have been done.
“We made this huge decision to move people out because of safety, so I wouldn’t ask anyone to move back if I hadn’t been reassured that those floors were safe for people to occupy.