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Two-week reprieve for mum who refuses to go back to Chalcots towers

Camden Council takes woman suffering from panic attacks to court after she says she will not move home to fire safety crisis estate

26 October, 2017 — By William McLennan

The Chalcots estate was evacuated in June

A JUDGE has delayed the eviction of a mother who is refusing to move back to the Chalcots estate and given her two weeks to launch a legal challenge against the council’s attempt to force her family to return to the high-rise block that was evacuated over fire safety risks.

Camden Council asked a judge at Central London County Court on Tuesday to issue a “possession order” that would allow them to move the family out of a flat in Highgate that they were given after the evacuation in June.

Andrea, who requested that her second name is not published, said she is unable to return to her home in Taplow because her existing mental health problems were ­exacerba­­ted by the dramatic operation to move 3,000 people out of the estate. Deputy District Judge Hull said he was unable to consider her medical condition at the hearing, but paused proceedings and gave the family a fortnight to seek legal assistance.

He said: “I will adjourn this hearing, but I will do it on some conditions, including that a defence should be filed within 14 days of today’s date. I completely understand that [Andrea] and her family have concerns about Taplow and going back to Taplow.” He added: “It may be said that that is for another court in another application.”

Andrea, who has severe anxiety, told the New Journal before the hearing that she suffered a panic attack when she attempted to return to Taplow in August.

She said: “From then on my health has deteriorated. I haven’t been able to work since August. I don’t go out. I’m experiencing panic attacks at home. “The reason why I feel that I can’t go back is that it gives me this overwhelming feeling of being trapped. You can’t reason it. This is a disability. In my eyes I’m being discriminated against.”

Duty solicitor Subbiah Sivapunniyam, who had a brief consultation with the family before the hearing, told the judge: “The court should adjourn the matter which will allow the defendant to go and take legal advice.” Addressing Andrea’s medical condition, he said: “If that is the case there may be grounds to go for judicial review.”

Jane Hodgson, a barrister appointed by the council, told the court that the family were only asked to return when it was safe to do so. She said: “There was a further inspection by the London Fire Brigade and the advice was that the residents could now go back to Taplow. It was safe to return.” She said that the Highgate flat had been promised to another family, who were waiting to move in.

A written application submitted to the court, authored by a council officer, said: “The council has a waiting list of approximately 5,000 households waiting to be rehoused and the defendant is taking up valuable resources in occupying two properties concurrently.”

Addressing Andrea’s mental health, and her statement that “returning to Taplow tower will cause significant worsening of her condition”, the application states: “[The council] has considered her circumstances before making the decision to proceed.” The court heard that, due an administrative bungle, the letter warning the family of the hearing had not been received until October 9, meaning they had not been given the necessary time to prepare. The judge accepted this and agreed to adjourn, despite Camden’s insistence that the hearing should proceed

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