Camden Council agrees new £77m Chalcots contract for fire safety works

The procurement deal follows some residents voicing concerns over the works

The procurement deal follows some residents voicing concerns over the works - Credit: Polly Hancock

Camden Council has agreed a contract to complete fire safety repairs on the Chalcots Estate for £77m – "tens of millions less" than a previous deal it scrapped.

McLaren Construction Group is set to replace cladding and carry out other major works for Bray, Burnham, Dorney and Taplow towers, following approval by the executive director of supporting communities on December 10.  

The estate in Swiss Cottage was evacuated in 2017 to remove unsafe cladding, in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire which killed 72 people.

In 2020 the council ditched its previous contractor Wates, after it is believed costs were set to spiral to around £125m for all five blocks. 

Camden Council’s housing lead called the new £77.2m contract – which sits alongside a separate £22m deal for Blashford – a “significant step forward”, with residents playing a key part in procurement.  

However some representatives from the estate’s tenant associations quashed claims of co-operation, saying they had been ignored.  

The council says the replacement of cladding will begin in June 2022, with works across the whole estate to be completed by December 2023.

Residents during the evacuation in 2017

Chalcots' residents during the evacuation in 2017 - Credit: PA Images

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Opposition councillor Steve Adams (Con, Belsize) said: “I welcome this progress but, given the experience to date, I'll remain sceptical right up until the last lorry drives away from the completed job.  

“There has been far too much uncertainty for far too long, and this answers just some of that. 

“The cost of this contract is tens of millions less than had been tentatively agreed with the previous contractor.  

“I made clear years ago that the project cost had mushroomed uncontrollably and was unnecessarily high, and I'm glad it's now back in hand.”

Cllr Steve Adams.

Cllr Steve Adams. - Credit: Cllr Steve Adams

Cllr Adams said “significant uncertainty” remains for residents including whether the works will be carried out by scaffolding the towers or fixing on mast climbers.  

The architect called it “confusing” how a timeframe had been set for works without an access route yet being established – and that “residents deserve to know the extent of their disturbance now”. 

“While there is unanimous approval for finally making the buildings safe with an A1 cladding system, the current design for the replacement windows and the way they will impact individual flats is far from universally welcomed,” Cllr Adams said. 

Nigel Rumble, from Bray TRA, said Camden had “controlled engagement” by not respecting the opinions of residents and “free thinkers” during previous consultations, including over procurement. 

He questioned the gap of tens of millions between the previous contract and now, challenging how Camden agreed to such an “overspend” before it ditched Wates. 

“Residents have very little trust in the ability of Camden to pull this project off,” Nigel added.

The Chalcots Estate tower blocks in Camden, north London

The Chalcots Estate tower blocks - Credit: PA

Hasan Shah, chair of Burnham Residents Association, said: “The new contractor needs to speak with the Chalcots residents, not the handful of yes people to understand the truth and be prepared for much opposition.” 

“People’s lives are at risk, those trying to push forward with the design have not learnt from Grenfell,” he added. 

Cllr Meric Apak, Camden’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We have come a long way since we started works at the Chalcots and we remain on track to deliver a new A1 rated cladding system and a new standard of safety for everyone on the estate.

“This is a significant step forward and I know that residents will be pleased to see this appointment made as they share our determination to see works get underway as soon as possible.

Cllr Meric Apak

Cllr Meric Apak - Credit: Archant

“I would like to thank residents for the vital role they have had in this including the resident procurement panel, who have given up their own time to ensure residents’ voices have been heard throughout this process.  

“Our sights are now firmly set on completion in 2023 and I look forward to a shared resident-focused approach as we move forward with the delivery of this project.” 

The new contract with McLaren is for Bray, Burnham, Dorney and Taplow. A separate £22m deal with construction firm Graham was announced earlier this year for Blashford, which the council says allows works to begin sooner. 

There are 712 flats across the Chalcots Estate, which is home to nearly 3,000 residents.