CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Confusion persists over tower block safety measures

20 July, 2017

The Chalcots estate evacuation

A SERIOUS charge can be levelled at senior Camden council officials and elected representatives: Why did they ignore their own commissioned report that found flats on the Chalcots estate posed a “moderate” fire risk?

Whether this report would have come to light so soon without the Grenfell disaster we do not know.

What we do know is that it was after the Green Party councillor Sian Berry asked for historic fire risk assessments that council leader Georgia Gould said they would be published.

It took nearly three weeks before publication last week on the council’s website.

Was the delay caused by the fact that few – if any – of the top level of officials and senior councillors knew of its existence in the past 14 months since its publication in April, 2016? Was it only known by officials lower down the chain? And, if so, what does this say of the mechanism of leadership at the Town Hall?

To some extent the dilly-dallying over the publication of the report reflects a set of manoeuvres that has bedevilled the whole crisis.

First there is a rush of decision-making that leads to a chaotic evacuation of the estate on the grounds that the lives of tenants are at risk if they stay in their tower blocks, and then days and weeks later an almost weary acceptance that if they want to return even before fire precautions are carried out, then let them stay.

Meanwhile, questions galore arise from the delayed report that should have been carefully scrutinised by, at the very least, senior councillors – for as councillors they represent the council which has a duty of care as the landlord of the council’s tenants.

Now that there is growing recognition nationally that it was a loosening of regulations that led to the Grenfell inferno, councillors need to know what is being done in their name.

This is the least tenants would expect of them.

While, for example, it is believed sprinklers and fire alarms are essential they are not thought to be of importance by the “experts”, Euro Compliance Ltd, who carried out the report. It goes without saying, of course, that the report sees the importance of fire doors – palpably lacking for years in quality and numbers on the estate.

So, it’s No to sprinklers and fire alarms, according to the report. What, we wonder, will |the council’s tenants think of it – not only on the estate but throughout the borough?

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