Camden should review and modify its plans for Chalcots

Thursday, 7th July

chalcots cladding removal 2017 Camden new journal Image 2020-05-22 at 09.41.11 (26)

Conflict at Chalcots

• I CONGRATULATE the CNJ for its relentless campaign to support the 4,000 residents of Chalcots, who have been on the receiving end of so much disruption and devastation as a result of the incompetent contract work by contractors and management of the five blocks by Camden.

I am very pleased Camden have secured £19million towards the £130million they were claiming and understood the pragmatism of the agreed settlement. A settlement is better than no settlement. I would suggest some of this money goes directly to compensate the residents affected.

However this is not a trigger to rejoice in an outcome, bearing in mind Camden chose these contractors, and then failed to adequately supervise their work, so Camden are equally culpable for the five years’ of distress visited on the residents.

Council leader Georgia Gould, in her own words recognises this, and she was here on the night when the estate was evacuated five years ago, yielding to the demands of the fire service ultimatum following Grenfell.

As a psychotherapist of 30 years, I can attest to the considerable stress, anxiety, depression and occasional suicide of residents that have had to endure this catastrophe.

I wish to challenge the words “we have worked with residents to design…”. Camden have chosen to undermine and ignore and dissolve many established tenants’ associations and estate groups like the Chalcots Works Group.

This was initially set up by Cllr Gould as a joint consultative group for the project but, because of too much criticism and challenge to officers, was eventually dissolved.

They then embarked on a policy of selectively choosing individuals who agreed with their approach and decisions, which allowed them to claim “worked with residents”, so ignoring the legitimate criticism from elected officers and representatives of established tenants’ associations across the estate. This has left antagonism and conflict within the resident community.

The Dame Judith Hackitt report that followed the horrific Grenfell Tower disaster which claimed 72 lives, recommended all such projects in future worked with established tenants’ associations and groups like the Chalcots Works Group.

Camden Council have cynically failed to do that even though this recommendation will pass into law later this year.

The conflict with us is not about cladding but the proposals for replacing windows in blocks. We asked for a version to the existing outward-opening windows that were found acceptable to 85 per cent of residents, but ones giving more ventilation.

Camden is proposing controversial inward-opening “tilt-and-turn“ windows, increasing the area of glass, lowering the cills, all of which requires new radiators and changes to curtains and blinds.

The one-metre, inward-opening, window also invades and reduces our existing space and produces a considerable risk to children, climbing and falling through.

The edges of these windows creates a dangerous hazard and obstacle to heads and bodies in the rooms. The child-safe setting on the windows, if used, cancels out the opportunity for better ventilation.

These windows will each require up to seven working days to replace, a devastating invasion of already crowded and full apartments. This could take many weeks per apartment, while we are still living there, so I do not see how this plan is “minimising disruption” as claimed.

The existing, simpler, windows were replaced in one day per window. We are delighted new claddings and insulation will be created, which will be fire-safe, but never expected such a dogs’-dinner plan of windows.

I speak as a past chair of Bray TRA, a member of the works group for three years, and currently secretary, who has contributed formal criticisms to Camden over the last five years; all of which ignored.

Camden now operates in a very autocratic, top-down, style since the ruling party clearly has no time for opposing views. I am saddened by these developments but appeal to Camden to review and modify these plans, even at this late stage.

Resident of Bray for last eight years

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