Chalcots Estate: Residents ‘humiliated’ by evacuation, report finds – but council was ‘right to act’

PUBLISHED: 14:38 25 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:47 25 June 2018

Dorney tower on the Chalcots Estate where residents were evacuated over fire safety concerns in the wake of the Grenfell disaster. Picture: David Merzeoff/PA Wire/PA Images

Dorney tower on the Chalcots Estate where residents were evacuated over fire safety concerns in the wake of the Grenfell disaster. Picture: David Merzeoff/PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

People evacuated from the Chalcots Estate in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire felt “humiliated” and “stigmatised”, according to a report published today.

The paper, authored by social care and safeguarding expert Marian Harrington, was commissioned by Camden in the wake of the operation on June 23 last year.

Ms Harrington said the media throng at the site left residents feeling humiliated while the buildings – deemed a risk by fire chiefs – were emptied.

And she said they were refused permission by the council to leave by an alternative exit, away from TV cameras.

In the aftermath, the report says, the council struggled to house the people who had been kicked out of the estate. When Camden tried to book hotel rooms, it found the limits on staff credit cards weren’t high enough thanks to an anti-fraud drive.

Staff responsible for finding and booking rooms were unaware there was a credit card with a higher limit available, so it wasn’t used.

Households that tried to use Airbnb to find alternative accommodation had their offers withdrawn by landlords when they discovered they were from the Chalcots Estate.

The report backs the council’s decision to evacuate. It says the London Fire Brigade (LFB) would have served a compulsory Prohibition Notice under Article 31, forcing immediate evacuation, if the council had delayed.

But Ms Harrington’s report also says the council’s officers and councillors showed leadership, and said council leader Georgia Gould was accessible to residents.

It also said the town hall’s methods of communicating with residents was “effective”, although it added the council could have more effectively told people about future work when they were allowed to return after the all-clear was given.

The report is the first in a two-stage review into the evacuation. The second stage will look at the blocks’ fire safety, which was criticised by the LFB over missing fire doors and a lack of fire resistance above doors.

Pictures published by the Ham&High revealed exposed gas pipes, and inadequate doors.

According to the report, the evacuation was the largest in Britain since the Second World War. It saw Camden rehouse 2,103 people from 636 households.

Workers finished removing the cladding on the towers in January. Repairs, including the removal and reinstallation of cladding, a new curtain wall – the structure that holds the windows in place – and new windows are set to cost the authority some £78million.

Residents only heard the curtain wall and windows themselves needed to be replaced in March.

Residents as well as TRA members have raised concerns over the last 12 months about not being consulted enough over the works.

The report will be presented to a cabinet meeting on July 25.

Council leader Gould said: “We are determined to learn from the evacuation of the Chalcots Estate, to ensure the best possible standard of resident safety, and so we’re well placed if an emergency response is needed in the future.

“Our number one priority was, and continues to be, the safety of our residents and I’m proud of how Camden staff and Camden residents reacted to the challenges faced since June last year.

“We’ve also put in place better engagement arrangements with our residents – whether that’s the resident-led fire safety panel, weekly works meetings or taking further control of maintenance services as contractual arrangements come to an end, as at the Chalcots Estate.

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