‘Something has gone drastically wrong’: Sajid Javid says 1,000 fire doors were missing from Chalcots
Defects were known about, says Green Party's Sian Berry
26 June, 2017 — By Richard Osley
THE government’s local government secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons this evening (Monday) that “at least 1,000” fire doors were missing from the Chalcot estate when fire officers inspected the tower blocks on Friday, a discovery which led the council to order its snap evacuation.
Giving a glimpse as to what may lie in the unpublished inspection findings which helped trigger the decision to move 4,000 residents from their homes late on Friday, Mr Javid said: “Of course the result of the cladding test for Camden was the trigger for the further investigations for the local fire service, the London Fire Commissioners. But when those commissioners went into those blocks in Camden, in their own words, they found ‘multiple fire safety inspection failures’, failures which frankly should not have happened in tower blocks of any type.”
He was answering questions in parliament about the government’s response to the Grenfell tower disaster in north Kensington, which left 79 dead or presumed dead twelve days ago, and the testing of cladding at other council estates. Camden had already decided to remove cladding from the Chalcot estate when fire inspectors arrived and found a new array of defects. It has been claimed that the fire service may have sought a legal notice forcing Camden to evacuate the blocks if council leader Georgia Gould had not made the order voluntarily. Around 100 residents are said to be stilll refusing to leave the blocks in Adelaide Road, the street which runs from Chalk Farm station to Swiss Cottage leisure centre, this evening.
Mr Javid said of the problems discovered by fire inspectors at the Chalcots: “There were problems with gas pipe insulation. There were stairways that were not accessible. There were breaches of internal walls, and, most astonishingly, there were hundreds, literally hundreds of fire doors missing. The estimate by Camden Council itself is that they need at least 1,000 fire doors because they were missing from those five blocks. That had nothing to do with the cladding, clearly something has gone wrong there, drastically wrong. It’s an example again as to why we need to look very carefully at why this has happened in this day and age in our country.”
His comments follow claims by Green councillor Sian Berry that defects within the estate were already known before the fire inspection team arrived on Friday. “We had to evacuate,” she said. “I spoke to the Fire Brigade and they said if Camden hadn’t done it voluntarily, they’d have a legal order to do it. People do have to be out of the flats until they are made safe. The combination of the cladding and the internal defects is what’s led to the condemnation of these flats. The internal defects – they were known about. We know residents were raising them. They were apparently in the fire risk assessments. I think that could’ve been known about earlier.”
She added: “Camden has not yet published these risk assessment documents despite requests since last week. If the serious risks that have led to the evacuation are in them I, along with thousands of residents, will be wanting answers as to why they weren’t put right. It’s very upsetting to find Camden homes involved in this kind of scandal.”
Cllr Gould said: “Questions about how this could happen to these buildings will be asked, answered and actioned.”