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High-rise tenants in Clerkenwell still waiting for fire doors

Town Hall faces criticism from residents in 23-storey tower block

20 April, 2018 — By Emily Finch

A door to one of the 185 flats in the council-owned Michael Cliffe House

THE Town Hall has come under heavy criticism from residents in a 23-storey tower block who say they are still waiting for potentially life-saving fire doors to be installed – despite being promised them three years ago.

None of the current doors leading into the 185 flats in the council-owned Michael Cliffe House in Clerkenwell is self-closing, according to residents. In an emergency, smoke and fire could spread into the stairwell and communal areas if the doors were left open.

“Islington Council can’t call fire safety a priority – they’ve done absolutely nothing. They don’t care,” said Sarah Nash, who lives on the 17th floor and is a member of Finsbury Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association.

She added: “There’s been no progress to improve fire safety in our homes after Grenfell. It’s been a year now. We had a meeting with the council but they’ve done nothing.”

Residents in Michael Cliffe House say they are still waiting for self-closing doors

Neighbouring Camden has already been criticised for failing to install self-closing door mechanisms to flats after the death of a woman in one of its blocks last year. Coroner Edwin Buckett said in his report: “This [lack of self-closing door mechanisms] caused the fire to spread more quickly than would have been the case had the door been shut. It also caused smoke to disperse in the common parts of the building.”

Town Hall housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward promised “as a priority” to install new fire doors in communal areas in Islington’s blocks in a letter published in the Tribune last June.

The communal doors at Michael Cliffe House are from the 1960s and have huge gaps which would allow smoke and fire to spread.

Ms Nash said: “Cllr Ward said we would get new ones by April. I’m really, really angry. We have to keep chasing them up. They haven’t contacted us once about these doors but instead just put stickers on them to say they’re fire doors.”

Prudence Kaxawa, who lives on the 20th floor, said: “The council have gone quiet. Surely even if there was an issue they could have done something by now. I’ve called a dozen times or more asking when they will be installed.”

Michael Cliffe House residents

She added: “We all collectively pay taxes which are covering these guys. They’re public servants and they work for us. Their attitude to us is disrespectful, they seem to think they’re above reproach.”

Cllr Ward said: “Residents’ safety in their homes is our top priority. The council has a full programme of fire brigade supported fire safety works scheduled, and responds to any issues that are raised.

“We want to have the new flat front entrance doors and the communal doors in Michael Cliffe House installed as soon as possible. The plans for the internal doors are prog­ressing, but it’s important these are done right and aren’t rushed. It’s also important to remember that the fire risk rating for building is the lowest category and the building has recently had other fire safety measures completed – all of which were planned before the Grenfell Tower tragedy.”

A Town Hall spokes­woman said: “We under­stand that some residents of Michael Cliffe House are frustrated with the progress of works as we replace doors in their building.

“However, residents should be assured that their building is in the borough’s lowest fire risk category and should a fire occur within the block, the spread of fire from one property to another is considered very unlikely.”

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