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This shouldn’t be one family at war with the council

20 October, 2017

Taplow tower block

CAMDEN Council is applying a one-dimensional bureaucratic approach to the problem of a family too frightened to return to the Taplow tower block.

Instead of viewing the problem holistically, that there are special features to the Chalcots estate, a genuine fear among tenants of a fire risk, a shaky belief in the fact the blocks on the estate may not be fire-proof, the Town Hall officials see it simply as a matter of housing facts and statistics.

Here is the bureaucratic mind at work again.

This problem should be taken under the wing of council leader Georgia Gould. There is a lot at stake here. It has all sorts of political ramifications. This is not a matter of one family at war with the council.

The fact is that a question mark still hangs over the Chalcots estate.

Any thinking council official or councillor should ask, as some tenants have: If the estate is safe, why do we have fire marshals guarding the blocks day and night? We do not employ them elsewhere. Only on Chalcots estate. Why?

Furthermore, if officials or councillors are willing to go deeper into the problem, they may wonder that, if the estate is absolutely fire-proof, why has the council, apparently, accepted, that the plastic window frames of all the flats have to be replaced by fire-proof plaster-boarded frames. Something, incidentally, that appears to be planned into the new specifications for the estate following exposure in this newspaper.

Again, all the front doors of the hundreds of flats on the estate are planned to be replaced with new fire doors, presumably because the existing ones are not fire proof. Here, until that happens, there is a risk, however small a risk, that the existing front doors are not quite fire proof.

And again, the council has agreed to install smoke alarms in all the flats – again, because, presumably, without them there is again a risk of a fire going undetected without such alarms.

All of this should have been taken into account by council officials before they took the draconian decision of seeking possession of this family’s flat. We recognise there may be special circumstances regarding this family but it seems as if there have been no meetings between the family and officials, and this alone needs to be corrected.

We trust letters have been sent to the family putting the council’s case in clear simple English and, if so, it would be most illuminating to see them.

There is still time for the council to pause its action before the court hearing scheduled for early next week.

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