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Chalcots: Residents of ‘forgotten tower’ call for sprinklers

Tenants in Blashford say they have been left in a building site

06 July, 2017 — By William McLennan

Tower residents Angela Bennett and Tracy Farrow

RESIDENTS of the only Chalcots estate tower block not to be evacuated say they do not feel safe in their homes and have demanded that sprinklers be installed.

Hundreds of people are living in Blashford while urgent fire safety works are carried out. Like all Chalcots residents they were initially told to leave their homes during the June 23 evacuation but were later informed in the early hours that they could return to their block – which is of a different design to the other four towers.

They have spent the past two weeks surrounded by workmen who have so far fitted self-closing mechanisms to every flat door. They are hurriedly filling in any holes in the building’s walls which have breached “compartmentation” – the vital feature of the tower’s design that is supposed to give the fire brigade time to douse flames before they spread.

Tracy Farrow said she is kept awake with fears for the safety of her children, Joshua, 12, and Evie, 3. “I know we don’t have as many issues [as the other blocks], but it’s still a building site we are living in,” she said. “We shouldn’t have been expected to have to live in that. There are a lot of people that want to leave, but for me this is my home”

Ms Farrow added: “Four generations of my family have been brought up in my flat. I don’t just want to be placed somewhere else, I want to feel my home is safe. I don’t want to be waking up in the middle of the night thinking: can I save my children if anything happens?”

She said that people would only feel safe if they were provided with proof of what the fire brigade found and the steps taken to rectify it, adding that residents wanted sprinklers installed in communal areas and fire blankets in each flat.

Angela Bennett, who lives on the 17th floor with her 20-year-old son Karl, said: “The fire engine only goes up to the tenth floor, so I still feel vulnerable. If anything happens, how are we going to get out? “I’m not convinced by the ‘stay put’ policy. I want sprinklers, but if they don’t do that I want to move out of here, because I don’t feel safe.”

Ms Farrow said residents felt they were living in “the forgotten block,” adding: “Nobody is realising that: Yes, it’s horrendous getting moved out of your property, but we’re still here, not getting any of that reassurance, not feeling we’re safe.”

Ms Bennett said they had been told they are still at risk of being evacuated if the fire brigade is not satisfied with the current work. She said: “You might go or you might not. It’s not very nice is it?”

Labour council leader Councillor Georgia Gould said she had been to visit tenants in Blashford and talked through their fire concerns.

A council spokesman said: “The fire brigade gave us their assurance on the night of the evacuations that Blashford is safe for residents. There are several design elements at Blashford Tower that differ from the other four tower blocks on the estate. The building is not as tall, and is smaller than the other four.”

He added: “The fire doors at Blashford are substantially different from those in the other blocks, and Camden Council staff and contractors have been in the building carrying out works to clear corridors and enhance fire safety, work which we expect to be completed on Monday 10 July 2017. Security staff continue to patrol the building.”

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