CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

‘Trust breakdown’ on crisis-hit Chalcots estate

Housing chief abandons working group

24 December, 2020 — By Harry Taylor

The Chalcots estate

CAMDEN Council has stopped working with a residents’ group to monitor the works at the Chalcots estate.

The Town Hall’s housing chief, Labour councillor Meric Apak, has told officers not to deal with the body set up in the aftermath of its fire safety evacuation in 2017.

He himself resigned from the Chalcots Working Group (CWG) in early October, and has said details of the works to the crisis-hit tower blocks in Adelaide Road must not discussed with it.

Hasan Shah, who was chair of the panel until last year and is chair of Burnham Tenants and Residents Association, said officers and Cllr Apak needed to be replaced to rebuild trust between the two sides.

He said the council risked losing the cooperation of residents, which could lead to them refusing entry to council staff to carry out works.

He said: “It’s like they’re on two different planets. It’s as though they are in a Disney movie or something. They are painting such a rosy picture when everything is falling apart. I am saying that they need to just come back to reality.”

According to emails seen by the New Journal, the council withdrew from the working group after a dispute over minutes of a meeting.

The council said it will work with tenants with a new “resident procurement panel” from February next year, as well as a “contract monitoring panel” from July. Both will be led by the council.


SEE ALSO INVESTIGATION INTO ‘SAME OLD’ RECORDING BETWEEN CAMDEN’S HOUSING CHIEF AND CHALCOTS DIRECTORD


A Camden spokesperson added that the CWG only represented three of the five towers.

Mr Shah, who has lived in Burnham since 1973 said: “They have tried to push everyone away. They don’t like being questioned, or scrutinised by people who know these blocks back to front. Some of us have been around since the days of the PFI deal. They were waiting for any issue to kick us out.”

Conservative councillor Steve Adams

Belsize councillor Steve Adams, said Camden had “cauterised” the group.

He said: “I think it’s extremely unwise and doesn’t satisfy the requirements for resident engagement. Camden has nothing to say and saying nothing in a meeting when questions are being asked becomes embarrassing.”

Outstanding concerns remain about Camden’s choice of tilt-and-turn windows and relocation of radiators, while a re­tendering process is underway after Camden cancelled a £100m deal with Wates.

Oonah Lacey, the council’s independent resident engagement advisor who chaired the CWG until recently said: “Resident consultation engagement and information sharing has been delivered through a comprehensive range of opportunities- making sure that residents are at the heart of the process and information is shared with everyone at the same time including reaching out to those that need a personal approach has been key.”

Housing chief Councillor Meric Apak

Cllr Apak said: “Resident engagement means listening to views and ideas to inform our decisions and to support community development. We do so through informing, engaging and shaping initiatives together with residents through an inclusive approach and in many different ways.

“This is vitally important on a project as complex as the Chalcots as we need to make sure we give all residents a voice.”

The estate was evacuated in 2017 in the wake of the Grenfell fire disaster and safety checks.

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