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Camden pledges transparency for people returning to Chalcots Estate

PUBLISHED: 15:12 04 July 2017 | UPDATED: 13:56 05 July 2017

Chalcots Estate residents were urgently evacuated, although they may have been living in unsafe homes for years. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Chalcots Estate residents were urgently evacuated, although they may have been living in unsafe homes for years. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Councillors are promising to publish current and historic fire inspection reports following reports that resident's safety fears were ignored for years.

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said that officers will make systematic changes and vowed to publish the latest enhanced fire safety checks by the end of September at a meeting on Monday evening.

Speaking after a Camden Council meeting last night, a Burnham tenant told how she had reported the smell of gas in her flat several times in the last three years, but the information was not acted on.

Erusalem Araya, a mother of three, who tragically lost a friend in Grenfell Tower, believes her concerns were brushed under the carpet.

She said: “I smelt gas, but no one took any notice.”

Ms Araya added, “I threatened not to pay rent.”

When she reported a “strong smell of gas” as an emergency, the housing managers arrived, but only after two hours.

Labour Camden Council leader Georgia Gould told the meeting that she would appoint a director for residents safety, carry out enhanced fire safety checks on housing blocks and publish all future fire risk assessments.

She would also set up a borough-wide fire safety advisory panel led by tenants and leaseholders.

Cllr Gould will also publish historic reports and the fire assessment that led to evacuation ordered by the London Fire Brigade after finding faulty fire doors, exposed gas pipies, blocked stairways and missing internal walls.

Cllr Gould promised: “There can be no forgotten voices and no forgotten blocks.”

Her assurances come after the Ham&High published an editorial calling for greater transparency.

Following the meeting, Camden council has also committed to an independent review of the circumstances that required evacuation of the tower blocks and to improve fire safety in its buildings.

Cllr Gould said that there are three contractors working on the blocks “day and night”.

Responding to questions on when residents would be able to return, she said the first set could be back by the end of next week.

All work should be finished by July 23rd.

Cllr Theo Blackwell told the meeting that the council had already spent several millions on the Chalcots Estate evacuation.

This will come out of council reserves and includes payments on hotels, council staff time and repairs and remedial works at the blocks.

He believes there was an element of hotel price surging online as council staff booked rooms in the hours following the evacuation.

Lib Dem Cllr Flick Rea called for national changes in house building.

Fire safety should be considered as part of the whole plan, and not just left to later building regulations, she said.

Cllr Rea added that residents regularly came to her surgeries with photographs of “shoddy workmanship”.

Conservative Cllr Leila Roy said a number of residents were concerned about their security for when they returned.

The security gates have been removed from the building as part of the fire safety improvements.

Cllr Gould said that while the security gates needed to be removed, residents could have “extra safe doors” installed instead.

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