Chalcots Inquiry: Three months on, evacuated residents fear investigation will never get answers
Council leader says she has spent summer 'focused on' urgent internal works at tower blocks
05 October, 2017 — By William McLennan
Cladding is removed from one of the towers this week
RESIDENTS who were forced to evacuate their homes in high-rise tower blocks over fire safety risks have said they fear that an investigation into what went wrong has been quietly shelved.
Camden Council pledged to commission an independent inquiry into failings that led to the drastic decision to move 4,000 people out of flats on the Chalcots estate in June but, three months later, no progress has been made.
Mandy Ryan, who lives in Bray, said: “It’s more than 100 days now and we still don’t have any answers. It’s all going to die down and then Camden will think they have controlled the residents and they can do whatever they want. I don’t think they’ll ever do the inquiry.” Ms Ryan was one of the first to raise concerns over similarities between the Chalcots estate and Grenfell Tower, where more than 80 people died in a fire the week before the Chalcots evacuation.
The discovery that the Chalcots are wrapped in the same flammable, plastic-filled cladding led the fire brigade to inspect the block. They found a list of internal failings that could allow smoke and flames to travel through the blocks.
Four 23-storey towers in Adelaide Road were evacuated late on Friday, June 23, with residents given little or no notice. Hundreds spent the night on air-beds in the Swiss Cottage sports centre while urgent attempts were underway to find temporary accommodation.
It led the New Journal to launch the Chalcots Inquiry campaign, calling for an independent probe into the failings to be held in public.
Work began last week to remove the cladding.
Green Party Assembly Member Sian Berry, who is also a councillor in Highgate, said: “We need a good old-fashioned forensic look at what happened at the Chalcots. For those of us that would like to properly scrutinise what went wrong, we need at least a list of the documents that are going to be released. It’s not moved an inch since July.”
Anthony Royle, chairman of the tenants’ and residents’ association in Bray, said: “The fact that it’s more than three months now is amazing, I would love to take part when they do have an inquiry. It’s caused so much disruption and anguish to me and many other people and it looks as though we are going to be living with the consequence for years.”
Council leader Georgia Gould said: “My commitment remains to make sure we leave no stone unturned to learn from what went wrong and make sure it never happens again, and I will push for as much information to be shared at every stage. I know residents want answers, and I do too.”
Council leader Georgia Gould
She said they had “spent the summer focused on” carrying out urgent internal works, adding: “We are now able to turn to the review so I have asked the council to begin this review as quickly as possible. I will write to residents next week outlining what I understand their key concerns to be and asking them what should be addressed by the independent review.”
Cllr Gould said that the inquiry will begin by looking at the management of the evacuation, but said answers on what led to it in the years before may take longer to answer. “We do not yet know the outcome of the legal process and I need to be upfront with residents that there is a possibility that it may take us some time to get to this part of the review for legal reasons out of my control,” she added.