Tension on Chalcots Estate in Camden as 200 residents refuse to leave tower blocks
PUBLISHED: 07:57 26 June 2017 | UPDATED: 08:22 26 June 2017
Around 200 residents who have refused to leave their homes in the fire trap Chalcots Estate tower blocks claim they are being intimidated by security guards.
This comes as Camden council is considering legal action to have them forcibly removed from their homes.
Four of the tower blocks were evacuated on Friday evening by the council after the London Fire Brigade said they could not guarantee the safety of the residents.
As reported in the Ham&High, urgent tests revealed on Thursday that the towers are covered with the same type of cladding as used at Grenfell Towers where a blaze killed at least 79 people on June 14.
In addition to this, a fire inspection on Friday revealed dangerous internal conditions, including exposed gas pipes and faulty fire doors with no stoppers which led to orders for an immediate evacuation on Friday night.
But angry residents say they have been warning about fire safety concerns for years, but Camden council had ignored their complaints.
With hundreds sleeping for a third night on mattresses on the floor of Swiss Cottage leisure centre, others have been ferried out to temporary hotels throughout London.
But around 200 residents from 120 households are refusing to leave their homes, with tenant Mandy Ryan claiming a security guard tried to intimidate her as she took her dogs for a walk on Sunday morning.
Ms Ryan, who shares her 22nd-floor flat in Dorney with her son, said: “I was bullied this morning trying to leave the building, he (the security guard) stood in front of the door and guys surrounded him and he said ‘we need to know who you are’,” she said,
Chalcots evacuation in pictures
Chalcots Estate residents were urgently evacuated, although they may have been living in unsafe homes for years. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Residents leave the Taplow tower block Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Residents leave Chalcots Estate with pets Stefan Rousseau/PA
Residents leave a tower block on the Chalcots Estate as the building is evacuated Stefan Rousseau/PA
Residents were forced to leave their homes in Taplow and other buildings on 23 June Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
People arrive at Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre and Library which has been set up as a rest centre Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
She said she was told by the man, who she has not seen before, that she could not take her animals outside.
Using a different building exit, Ms Ryan added: “I was so scared, he got so close to me - I could feel his breath on my face.
“We are not the villains here, we are the victims. We are not trying to impede any work whatsoever, we just want suitable accommodation.
“We are all scared, we are disrupted, we don’t know how we are going to cope, cook, wash or anything at the moment.”
Sayed Meah, 34, who has lived in Burnham since he was born, said he is still in his eighth-floor flat.
Mr Meah and his wife provide 24-hour care for his 78-year-old mother, who has had a stroke.
Describing the feeling amongst other residents refusing to leave, he said they are “fighting on”, and telling each other they will not be going until a legal notice is obtained or they are “dragged out by their fingernails”.
Mr Meah said on Saturday evening he had problems getting in and out of his home. He said: “After 10pm they were saying no-one is allowed in.
“People were kicking the doors, one gentleman broke the glass and cracked it. Other residents had to call the police, saying they were being refused access to their own homes.”
Mr Meah said it was security guards and the fire services who were preventing people entering the high-rise, He said: “There was one lady crying in the foyer of the lift, and today they are letting people in and out with a register, I mean what is going on?”
Rebecca Cody, 52, and Adam Booth, 47, live in Burnham, which she bought in 2004 and, as a leaseholder, paid £15,000 towards the cladding and refurbishment when it was undertaken.
The couple said white stickers with information on whether the flat is occupied and how many remain in the property have been stuck on the flat doors.
When asked about the security in the building, Mr Booth said: “As soon as they come out of the lift they are waiting for you - asking who you are, which floor and number.”
The council has said it could take two to four weeks for the four blocks to be made safe but residents fear the work will take at least eight weeks.
Refurbishment of the Chalcots Estate was overseen by Rydon with subcontractor Harley Facades in 2006, the companies involved in the refit of Grenfell Tower,.
In a statement Ms Gould said the council and London Fire Brigade “advise in the strongest possible terms” that residents should evacuate and take up a temporary accommodation option.
She said there are “various legal routes” the council can explore to require people to leave.
Pressed on the claims made by residents of bullying and intimidation, Ms Gould said she had phone calls from residents overnight expressing concern over the way they had been treated by security.
“This morning I spoke to my chief executive and we had a conversation and we both agreed that we just needed to reiterate to security that we need to be calm and measured,” she said. “I am going to go to the blocks now and I will be saying that again. That’s why we had social workers down today, most of the residents are willing to go, they are just waiting for the right accommodation.
“They’re scared, they want to be sure that they can come back ... the right approach is to work with them.”
Meanwhile, generous members of the community left food, supplies, nappies at the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre for those displaced from the Tower Blocks.
Ham&High staff collected donations from businesses in Belsize Park and Hampstead, with grocers Pomona Foods and the fruit stall outside Hampstead Community market donating boxes of bananas and peaches.
Staff at The Winchester Project were looking after displaced children and hundreds of Camden council staff volunteered to work over the weekend to look after those forced to camp on the gym floor.