'Frustrated' Chalcots' residents claim Camden Council is ignoring fears
- Credit: Mandy Ryan
Residents have called for a “complete overhaul” in how Camden Council listens to their long-running concerns ahead of major works on the Chalcots Estate.
The town hall’s planning committee recently approved changes including replacement cladding, windows and radiators.
However residents fear these “massively disruptive” works could become a “nightmare”, claiming the new “tilt and turn” windows aren’t wanted by the majority.
Construction will start in November and will be completed in 2023, the council says, after it evacuated the estate in 2017 to remove its unsafe cladding following the Grenfell Tower fire.
Camden is currently undergoing a re-procurement process, having ditched its previous £100m deal with the contractor Wates.
Camden Council said its “overriding objective” is “to do right by residents and minimise disruption” by delivering A1 rated cladding and a “gold standard of safety”.
But Nigel Rumble, whose family has lived at the Chalcots since the early 1970s, said: “People living here feel very, very frustrated.
“They feel depressed and they have years of works ahead of them. It’s not going to be the works that they are hoping for, it's not going to be the window types that they want.
“There's going to be massive amounts of disruption, and they don't feel they are actually being consulted.”
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One of the major concerns, residents say, are the new windows which will open inwards rather than outwards, as fitted on the estate currently.
“People are not happy with that (the new windows), especially people with children, people who suffer from fear of heights, people who have pets,” Nigel said.
“People are nervous. Of course people want ventilation, but people want safe ventilation. They don’t want to feel like they're in danger.”
Hasan Shan, chair of the Burnham Residents Association, cited a survey from around two years ago in which only 5% of 370 respondents said they wanted tilt and turn windows.
“The council say ‘we are the landlord and you're getting what we tell you’... and basically that’s it,” he said.
Anthony Royle, from the Bray Tenants and Residents Association, feared that many people will be “up in arms” when they find out about the “major invasion” of works.
“Camden have a legal responsibility to consult, but in practice they don’t listen to residents,” he said.
“All the things that come out from Grenfell is that residents weren't listened to. Well I fundamentally believe that basically that's happening here in Camden.
“Our experience is that they go through the motions of consulting, but they don't listen.”
Residents pointed to apathy as reason for low turnout in council consultations held online.
They also challenged the town hall’s decision last year to stop consulting with the Chalcots Working Group, which helped scrutinise the plans.
“Our voices are being dismissed,” Mandy Ryan, a Chalcots resident of 31 years, said.
“They're not listening at all, they just put things on the screen.
“There was only eight residents at the last meet up. They just change things and go along with what they want. When we speak out they're not interested.”
Cllr Oliver Cooper, Camden’s opposition leader, said residents had “tried and tried" to get the council to listen - but they have been ignored.
He added: “The last few years have been hell for residents, and Camden is now forcing through a solution that residents don't want, by threatening to drag out an already unacceptably-long process.
“Residents should not be held hostage like this."
Cllr Meric Apak, Camden’s cabinet member for housing, said residents are consulted by: a themed meeting and Q&A session; a monthly newsletter via post or email; the project director attending DMC meetings for the area; and an “open ongoing offer to TRA chairs to meet monthly”.
Cllr Apak continued: “In addition, we have also recently established a resident procurement panel so residents can input directly into the evaluation and on important matters such as how the work will be carried out within properties and, later in the year, a contact-monitoring panel will also be set up.
“While safety is our number one priority, we talked to residents about what was important to them for the new windows and the most common feedback we received included making sure there was enough ventilation to help tackle overheating, which the new window designs have addressed.
“We have also consulted on how the windows will look, for example whether the lower window pane should be glazed or opaque. The design is the most commonly used window type in recent residential high-rise projects in the UK and Europe precisely because it is so safe.”
There are 712 flats across the Chalcots Estate, which is home to close to 3,000 residents.