Chalcots Estate towers are evacuated over fire fears

Tenants offered temporary accommodation due to fire safety fears

Friday, 23rd June 2017 — By Richard Osley and William McLennan


The scene at Taplow this evening

THE Town Hall has this evening (Friday) begun evacuating people from their homes at tower blocks where it is planning to remove cladding in the wake of the Grenfell fire disaster.

Residents at the Chalcots Estate have been advised they must leave as soon as possible to make way for urgent fire safety work after the London Fire Brigade made a new check of the building earlier today (Friday). Several tenants have told the New Journal that new concerns were raised about gas piping running through the building and late this evening it has been confirmed that this was at the centre of new concerns raised by inspectors.

The danger was so great that the Brigade could have reached for a legal notice to force the evacuation if Camden had not responded, it was claimed tonight.

Yesterday, we revealed that council testing across the five blocks  in Adelaide Road had found a material similar to the plastic inside cladding wrapped around Grenfell, the tower in Kensington where 79 people died or are missing, presumed dead, following the devastating blaze there last Wednesday.

The council immediately said the cladding would be removed, even though officials believed it did not pose the same fire risk due to the way it was installed and the use of different rock wool insulation.

The scene at Taplow this evening

Council leader Councillor Georgia Gould said: “The London Fire Brigade completed a joint inspection of the blocks with Camden Council technical experts. Together we decided that the Taplow block needs to be temporarily decanted while we undertake urgent fire safety works so that residents can be fully assured of their safety. This means that we need to move residents from their homes and into temporary accommodation.”

She added: “We anticipate that these works will be completed within three to four weeks. We realise that this is hugely distressing for everyone affected and we will be doing all we can, alongside the London Fire Brigade and other authorities, to support our residents at this difficult time. The Grenfell fire changes everything – we need to do everything we can to keep residents safe. You will appreciate that this is an emerging situation and we will be providing regular updates.”

The Town Hall leadership met with Chalcot residents at Swiss Cottage Library yesterday evening in a bid to reassure them that swift action was being taken and that fire wardens would be on site on a 24-hour basis until the cladding had been completely removed.

Mandy Ryan, a member of the tenants and residents association, said: “I’m so angry. Yesterday they were telling people it was safe and now there’s this panic, telling everyone to leave their homes and go to the library on a Friday night. It’s all about the gas pipes, apparently. That’s what the firefighters found were unsafe.”

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq at the scene, says there is new concern about ‘internal machinery’ of the buildings

Although the council has said it will find free temporary accommodation for affected residents, some have tried to book rooms in the nearby Marriott Hotel, where two-bed rooms are billed at more than £200. Camden is telling residents they will be able to revisit their flats through controlled visiting during the work, which could take up to three weeks.

One resident of the Dorney block left their house as soon as they heard the news: “Our building is exactly the same. It’s the same cladding. The same building. We are leaving. Yesterday, we were all at the meeting and they told us we were safe. We felt reassured and then today at 8:30pm we’re being told Taplow is being evacuated. It’s an outrage. It’s a joke.”

Airbeds are laid out for evacuated residents at the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre

Mohammed Sharif, who lives in Taplow, told the New Journal this evening: “We don’t know where they are taking us. They said go to sports centre. They said because of the fire risk. But this has been done in 2009 and suddenly in one night we have to leave.”

Frank Musk, 87, made his own way down the stairs after his sister’s friend saw it on the news in Scotland and alerted him. “What makes me mad is, nobody saw it and I just got I call saying they’re closing Taplow tower, so I just walked down the back stairs,” he told the New Journal. “I worked in West End hotels for 30 years, and they all had sprinkler systems. Why don’t they do that here?”

Sarah Tomlin, who was being evacuated from Taplow, said: “We think some idiot has made a threat, and they are acting on it. Otherwise it’s absolutely a massive overreaction. All the hotels are full – no one know what is going on. I don’t have any family here to stay with. Why today? Why in the night, it’s going to rain soon. They’ve had two days to do this.”

Conservative ward councillors are at the scene, while Green councillor Sian Berry has been tweeting a list of recommendations for tenants affected. Cllr Berry said she had questioned the London Fire Brigade on what had triggered the evacuation and had been told a legal notice could have been applied demanding the evacuation if Camden had not started moving residents.

Prime Minister Theresa May said tonight: “My thoughts are with residents being evacuated in Camden while their homes are made safe tonight. We will work with and support the emergency services and relevant authorities to safeguard the public.”

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