Chalcots residents disappointed after court rules that Camden Council is right to say they can return despite lingering fears over safety
PUBLISHED: 16:54 31 July 2017 | UPDATED: 17:09 31 July 2017
Chalcots residents who feel their homes are not safe were left disappointed today when a judge ruled that Camden Council did not have to keep paying for a resident’s temporary accommodation.
Court of Appeal judge Mrs Justice May turned down Leticia Esposito’s appeal for an injunction requiring the Council to extend her hotel accommodation until the results of tests on cladding are returned next week. The Council successfully argued that with fire safety works completed and signed off, residents were no longer entitled to temporary accommodation paid for by the council.
The case is likely to provide a precedent for any future suits brough by Chalcots residents against the Council, and any evacuees still in hotels will have to leave or start paying the costs themselves.
Residents were evacuated on June 23 after a London Fire Brigade inspection found immediate safety concerns; the Council has enacted a phased return, with all necessary works supposedly completed early last week. However, many residents feel that the work is insufficient and the blocks remain unsafe, a position corroborated by an independent building safety expert last week.
With the Council refusing to pay for temporary accommodation beyond the point at which they felt it safe for residents to return, some residents have resorted to legal action. Their suits are to demand the Council provide temporary accommodation until the completion of tests on the buildings’ cladding- which is of the same type that caused the Grenfell Tower inferno in June. Initial tests found the cladding contained no flame-retardant material- fuelling fears that the towers could go up in flames.
During Monday’s hearing, the Council’s legal team argued that the tests were not relevant to the evacuation, and that the schedule of works ordered by the LFB had been fulfilled and signed off by building inspectors. They also argued that requiring residents to return despite questions over the cladding was in line with central government guidance from the DCLG. But Ms Esposito’s solicitor Christopher Jacobs argued that it was ‘irrational’ for the council to instruct the claimant, who lives in Dorney tower, to return to an unsafe home, and breached her right to a safe home under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
But the judge found this case unconvincing, and agreed with the Council’s argument that the cladding was not relevant to the evacuation, to the disappointment of the sizeable group of Chalcots residents who had packed the courtroom’s public benches.
An emotional Ms Esposito was not available for comment after the ruling, but Taplow tower resident Ella May Chisholm-Hickey, 30, said she remained unwilling to return to her flat. “Camden presented a clever case, but I’m not going back,” she said. “I don’t feel it’s safe, and I’ve got small children. Just because we live in social housing, that doesn’t mean we should just accept any standards.”
Other residents said that further legal action would be taken; several mooted a crowd-funding campaign to hire an independent building inspector and pay legal fees.