Exclusive: PFI contractors pay out-of-court settlement in Chalcots crisis case

Residents were forced out of their homes due to post-Grenfell fire safety fears five years ago

Thursday, 23rd June — By Harry Taylor

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

Cladding being removed from the Chalcots

THE four companies that refurbished and maintained the Chalcots estate under a private finance initiative (PFI) deal before it was evacuated over fire fears have reached an out-of-court settlement after being challenged by the council.

In unprecedented circumstances, all residents of the towers in Adelaide Road were asked to leave their homes without any notice in June 2017 following a post-Grenfell safety review.

The New Journal can now reveal that the firms that made up Partners for Improvement in Camden (PFIC); Rydon Construction Ltd, Rydon Maintenance Ltd, Faithful+Gould and United Living South Limited, have paid around £19million to settle a case that Camden Council had prepared for the High Court.

Fire defects including exposed gas piping and cladding similar to that at Grenfell had been found in the building and it was deemed unsafe. Some of the 4,000 tenants were forced to leave, some sleeping on airbeds on the floor of the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre.

The New Journal at that time launched its Chalcots Inquiry campaign demand­ing answers for those forced from their flats. PFIC has since been liquidated. It had held a £150million contract for the estate which the council pulled the plug on in 2018 – three years early. Camden was seeking £130million to cover the costs of the evacuation and in its initial claim they said that “multiple fire safety failings” had breached building regulations.

Council leader Georgia Gould

In a statement the Town Hall said that the court case was settled “without any admission of liability on the side of any of the parties”.

A spokesperson added that if the council had pursued the case further “there was a risk that the parties would not have had sufficient funds to satisfy any judgment.”

Camden has launched the second stage of an independent review into the circumstances that led up to the evacuation with many questions still not answered five years later. It will examine the refurbishment of the Chalcots between 2006 and 2009, and its subsequent management. The first stage of the investigation looked at the evacuation in 2017 and fire safety works carried out shortly afterwards.

Hasan Shah, head of Burnham Residents Association, welcomed the settlement, but said that the council needed to make sure it learns from any review. “It’s good that they have got some money but it has taken such a long time, and Camden has to make sure it doesn’t waste any money,” he said. “The thing with the review is that there’s no point looking back to the past if you are repeating mistakes again about safety and design. It is good that the PFI contract is being looked at, that they can look at where it went wrong, and what should have happened differently.”

Camden Council’s leader Georgia Gould said: “It has been five years since we had to evacuate people from their homes in the Chalcots. I know how immensely difficult that was for residents. Their resilience then and now, and their patience and participation in the process ever since, has been remarkable.”

She added: “The money we have secured for the Chalcots … has meant that we have been able to appoint the most suitable contractors for the major works with no ounce of compromise on safety.

“We have worked with residents to design and fully fire-test an industry-leading, A1-rated cladding system and we have been able to prioritise quality and minimising disruption over cost. It has also helped us to balance the deficit in our housing fund, which is the vital money we use each day to carry out repairs and to maintain decent, safe, and warm homes for residents across Camden.

“We care deeply about what residents at the Chalcots have been through, that is why we have done everything we can to work in the open and to keep our promises.”

Rydon, United Living and Faithful + Gould were approached for comment.

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