CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Residents fear fresh delays at Chalcots towers

Blashford treated like a 'poor relation'

20 November, 2020 — By Harry Taylor

The Chalcots estate was evacuated in 2017

TENANTS and leaseholders living in one of the crisis-hit Chalcots estate towers fear even more delays to construction work on their block.

Of the five towers, Blashford, the only one on the left-hand side of Adelaide Road looking west, will be treated separately to the other four as Camden Council continues to labour at bringing flats up to standard.

Some tenants have already lived through a failed Private Finance Inititaive that was meant to make their homes fit for purpose, and then the dramatic fire safety evacuation in June 2017.

The New Journal’s Chalcots Inquiry campaign has called on Camden to fully explain what led to this unprecedented action, which saw more than 3,000 people ordered from their homes in darkness – some left sleeping on a leisure centre floor. Cladding was later removed from the blocks.

Housing chief, Labour councillor Meric Apak, said it was a “nasty rumour” that work on the blocks would not be finished until 2024 and that he wanted to improve on the timescale. But Camden is looking for a new contractor after ditching a £100million deal with Wates.

While Wates did carry out design work on the other towers, it has been suggested there is no plan in place for Blashford and a new contractor will have to do both “design and build” on the tower.

Casey Oppong, the chair of Blashford’s tenants and residents association, said the further delay was frustrating.

He said he agreed that the block should be treated differently from others, due to its size, but said the reason for delays and a separate tender should be explained to residents.

He added: “Someone should explain to me why it’s delayed. They need to put the cladding on, so people can get back to normal. It’s another winter, people are cold without the cladding. It’s gone on for too long.”

All three of Belsize’s councillors said they were frustrated with yet another delay.

Lib Dems Luisa Porritt and Tom Simon said: “Camden Council has consistently failed to meet any of the deadlines it has set itself for completing essential fire safety works on the Chalcots estate. Regardless of whether the council says the project will be finished in 2023 or 2024, residents are faced with more than six years of disruption to their lives since the evacuation in 2017.

“Given the council’s poor track record of delivery, they have no reason to believe the latest estimate for completion is achievable.”

Meanwhile, Conservative Steve Adams said Blashford had been treated like a “poor relation” on the estate. Camden hopes work on-site will begin in November 2021.

Cllr Apak said: “For me the overriding priority is to get the end product in this project right, minimising disruption to all residents as much as we can, delivering on the commitment of a new A1-rated cladding system and a gold standard of safety for everyone who lives on the estate.

“We have come a long way since we started work at the Chalcots, we were one of the first landlords to get cladding fully removed. However, I do share the disappointment that residents have felt about delays and understand the pressures the pandemic will have added to many residents’ lives.”

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