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Judge to rule if family can be forced back to Chalcots estate in High Court ‘test case’

Council fear they would have to house "many individuals for many months," court hears

31 July, 2017 — By William McLennan

Some of those opposed to moving home, pictured earlier this month

A High Court judge will today decide whether a resident of the Chalcots estate should be forced to return to her home before further safety tests have been completed on the flammable cladding that coat the tower blocks.

Several dozen residents attended the Royal Courts of Justice this morning as a barrister argued that Camden Council should continue to provide Letizia Esposito, who lives in one of the blocks with her two children, with temporary accommodation until the test results are received at the end of the week.

The application is being viewed as a test case that could apply to all residents of the blocks in Adelaide Road.

Around 3,000 people were evacuated from their homes at the end of June and spent a month living in hotels and temporary accommodation. Many have now returned home after being told by Camden that it was now safe to do so.

Others have refused and the court heard today that a group of eight are currently being represented by law firm Hodge Jones and Allen, alongside Ms Esposito, while a further 15 are likely to join them.

The court heard that test on the entire “cladding system” used at the Chalcots – which includes both the polyethylene cladding and fire retardant rock wool insulation – is underway and the results should be known by the end of this week.

Christopher Jacobs said that is was “unreasonable” to ask people to return home without the results of this test.

He said that a further application would be made to extend temporary accommodation for Ms Esposito until the cladding is removed, should it fail the further test.

The court heard that decision was likely to apply to all residents of the evacuated tower blocks.

Jason Coppel QC, for Camden, said if granted the council would face the possibility of housing “many individuals for many months”.

He added: “It opens the door to the council extending what has already been a very substantial exercise in helping residents.”

He said that the application “misunderstands the reason for the provision of the temporary accommodation in the first place”.

He said: “It was not the cladding, in and of itself. It was the internal fire safety works”.

He told the court that safety failings inside the building that were discovered by the fire brigade and led to the evacuation of the blocks on June 23 had now been addressed.

He said a “whole range of experts” – including the fire brigade, independent fire consultants and building control from other London boroughs – and found that “the concerns that led to the evacuation have been addressed and it is safe for residents to return”.

There were audible gasps of disbelief from residents in the public gallery, when he said that the “vast majority believe it is perfectly safe”.

Her Honour Judge Juliet Mary May QC is expected to return a ruling at 3pm.

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