Tuesday 17 October 2017

Grenfell Tower: 34 buildings fail cladding safety test in wake of tragedy

Residents leave the Taplow tower block on the Chalcots Estate in Camden, London, as the building is evacuated in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire to allow
Residents leave the Taplow tower block on the Chalcots Estate in Camden, London, as the building is evacuated in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire to allow "urgent fire safety works" to take place. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Residents leave the Taplow tower block on the Chalcots Estate in Camden, London, as the building is evacuated in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire to allow "urgent fire safety works" to take place. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Shehab Khan

Some 34 high-rise buildings in 17 local authorities across the country have failed fire cladding safety tests in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Government has said.

The announcement came as around 3,000 residents of the Chalcots Estate in Camden, north London, face weeks in temporary accommodation after four tower blocks were evacuated.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said testing of potentially combustible cladding "is running around the clock".

"So far the cladding from 34 high-rise buildings, in 17 local authority areas, has failed the combustibility test," he added.

Manchester, Camden, Plymouth, Hounslow, Portsmouth, Barnet and Brent were named as having buildings that had failed tests by Mr Javid.

But in the statement he stressed "cladding itself is not dangerous" and that a failure in testing does not necessarily mean a building will be evacuated.

Residents leave the Taplow tower block on the Chalcots Estate in Camden, London, as the building is evacuated in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire to allow
Residents leave the Taplow tower block on the Chalcots Estate in Camden, London, as the building is evacuated in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire to allow "urgent fire safety works" to take place. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

"The decision by Camden Council to evacuate four of the five towers on the Chalcots Estate was because the failed testing of the external cladding was compounded by multiple other fire safety failures which the fire inspection team found within the buildings," he said.

Mr Javid praised the "calm and stoicism" which residents showed when asked to leave their homes at short notice on Friday, in what he called a "distressing experience".

A total of 83 households refused to leave their homes after Camden residents were evacuated amid safety fears.

Approximately 4,000 people have been displaced after 650 households were told to leave the Chalcots estate after firefighters said they "could not guarantee our residents' safety", Council leader Georgia Gould said.

The council said it was booking hotels for residents but around 100 people had to spend the night on air beds in a leisure centre.

Lauren Mitchell, a resident, said people were told if they chose not to leave their homes the police would be informed.

“We asked the council, 'what if we don't leave?'  And they said we will have the police round to 'forcibly remove you from your flat within an hour’,” Ms Mitchell told the BBC.

Ms Gould, the council leader, visited the Swiss Cottage rest centre, where many residents spent the night, to listen to any concerns people had.

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster she said “urgent fire safety work” would now take place on the five high-rise buildings but residents have raised concerns about the handling of the situation.

Chalcots resident Shirley Philips who raised her concerns to Ms Gould said she was given no notice before being told she must leave her home.

“I think it's absolutely disgusting. We've had the fire brigade all day, Camden Council, police. I had a fire safety check done today,” she told Sky News.

“Why have they left it till half past eight on Friday night to start getting residents out? Where do they think we're all going?"

Teacher Kim Price, who lives in one of the towers with her 14-year-old son, said as late as 4pm residents were told it was safe for them to stay in their homes.

"I really don't know what to do, I'm so scared right now. The news has said 'get out now' but the authorities have said 'stay put',” Ms Price said.

"But why now? At 4pm today they said it would be okay and that all the checks were fine. And now all of a sudden the news is saying we should get out.”

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said he was in contact with the council and the emergency services about the situation.

"There is a particular set of circumstances on this estate that make this necessary, which has been identified following good work between Camden Council and the London Fire Brigade,” Mr Khan said.

"Fire safety checks are ongoing at other estates across the UK."

Meanwhile, some 27 high-rise buildings in 15 local authorities across England have failed fire cladding safety tests in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has announced.

Portsmouth and Brent, along with Camden, Manchester, Plymouth and Hounslow, were named by the Government on Saturday as having buildings that had failed tests amid a nationwide safety operation launched after at least 79 people died when fire ripped through Grenfell Tower in north Kensington on June 14.

Independent News Service

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