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Blaze fears, just two years after estate’s revamp

Waking watch and temporary fire alarms, as residents ask: ‘How can there be problems already?’

19 February, 2021 — By Calum Fraser

Peter Flack, a resident on the Packington Estate

A ROUND-THE-CLOCK waking watch and temporary fire alarms have been introduced at a newly redeveloped housing estate amid concerns over residents’ safety.

Work at the Packington Estate, near the City Road basin, was only finished two years ago but housing association Hyde Group, which manages the estate, are now conducting checks and have called contractors Rydon back in.

Eight watchmen are on the 790-home estate – which rises up to six storeys – as part of the 24-hour operation.

A number of “potential issues” have been identified, the Tribune understands, with “fire breaks in the external walls” now being reviewed.

Resident Peter Flack said: “It’s a brand-new estate, how can there be problems already? It’s unnerving to see the men patrolling and we’ve been left with a lot of questions about how this is going to be paid for.

“If there’s a serious fire risk then we need to be told about it right away.”

The Packington Estate was first built in the 1960s using the “large panel system” method of construction which was later implicated in the partial collapse of the Ronan Point tower block in Canning Town, in which four people died.

Following a campaign to make the estate safe, it was demolished in 2004 and years of redevelopment began. It was finally completed in 2019, with a ribbon-cutting event attended by the architects and Islington South MP Emily Thornberry.

But later that year some residents expressed concern over a lack of communal fire alarms after a blaze ripped through one of the flats.

Hyde had followed a “stay put” and “flat contained” strategy in the event of a fire to stop residents clogging up corridors and stairwells for emergency services.

But temporary alarms are now being fitted following further inspections of the buildings.

The ribbon is cut to celebrate the estate redevelopment in 2019

Hyde’s safer homes director Liz Oliver said: “We wrote to all residents at Packington last week to let them know that inspections in January had identified a number of potential issues with some of the fire breaks in the external walls in buildings across the estate.

“I understand residents are worried. I want to reassure them we’re working as fast as we can to agree what remedial work is required with the original contractor, Rydon, so we can put things right. We’ll be installing temporary alarm systems in all the buildings on the estate in the coming weeks to give an extra layer of protection for residents, while any work is carried out.”

She added: “We haven’t asked leaseholders to pay for anything yet, and we’re doing everything we can to avoid passing costs on, but unfortunately we may have to. However, we won’t be asking anyone to pay for anything until we’ve exhausted all other options. This includes asking Rydon to contribute and applying for government grants, such as the Waking Watch Relief Fund (for the fire alarm installation) and the Building Safety Fund (for removing and replacing cladding), to cover some of the costs.”

The government recently pledged an extra £3.5billion to help tenants in tower blocks around the country that are wrapped in cladding deemed unsafe after the Grenfell Tower fire disaster in 2017 led to a reassessment of building regulations and standards.

A Rydon spokesman said: “We can confirm that we are working with Hyde to undertake some rectification works.”


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