Chalcots evacuation: Camden Council sues contractors for £130m over fire safety ‘defects’ on estate

Dorney tower on the Chalcots Estate in Camden, London, where its residents are being evacuated over

Dorney tower on the Chalcots Estate in Camden, London, where its residents are being evacuated over fire safety fears linked to the Grenfell Tower disaster. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Camden Council is suing a group of contractors over “fire safety failures” which led to its mass evacuation of the Chalcots Estate in Swiss Cottage in June 2017.

The town hall has is looking to the High Court to recover costs from the now-in-liquidation contractor PFIC (Partners for Improvement in Camden) and the subcontractors, who it says had responsibility for refurbishment and maintenance of the estate under a private-finance initiative (PFI) agreement.

The council is seeking £130m from PFIC, Rydon Construction Ltd., Rydon Maintenance Ltd., Faithful + Gould Ltd. and United Living South Limited.

The money in question covers the costs of evacuating the Chalcots and the employment of fire marshals and security staff during the evacuation and after. The figure also includes money spent on making good "inadequate internal fire stopping, inadequate fire doors and other serious defects", and the removal of combustible aluminium composite material cladding from the tower blocks' outer façade.

A council spokesperson said: "We were let down by PFIC, Rydon and other contractors. The PFI agreement for refurbishment and maintenance of the Chalcots Estate was entered into in good faith and fundamental to this was our expectation that the Chalcots towers would be safe for our residents.

"We should not have been put in a position where we were left with no option but to evacuate residents from their homes on a Friday night."

The council added its "absolute priority" was the safety of residents and that upon discovering what it has called "serious deficiencies", it was forced to step in.

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"Clearly, it would not be right for residents and, by extension, the public purse, to foot the bill for what has been a private contractor failure," the spokesperson added.

Camden Council received £80m in government funding to replace cladding on the estate, but say this still leaves it with "substantial losses" to cover.

The town hall said the claims had been submitted after two years reviewing its contracts and agreements with PFIC and that added: "We are clear about where responsibility lies" for the fire safety issues.

The council is currently working with a different contractor, Wates, to complete refurbishment on the estate.

All of the contractors named by Camden Council have been contacted for comment by this newspaper.