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Council leader defends Chalcots evacuation in wake of critical report

PUBLISHED: 16:58 30 July 2018 | UPDATED: 16:58 30 July 2018

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould speaking outside the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre after residents were evacuated from the Chalcots Estate. Picture: David Mirzeoff/PA Images

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould speaking outside the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre after residents were evacuated from the Chalcots Estate. Picture: David Mirzeoff/PA Images

PA Archive/PA Images

The leader of Camden Council has defended its decision to evacuate the Chalcots Estate – after an independent review criticised the lack of communication with residents, some of whom were left “extremely traumatised”.

Georgia Gould said she accepts “most of the report”, but explained that the council was acting on advice from the London Fire Brigade.

The evacuation was carried out on June 23 last year, a week after the Grenfell Tower blaze.

It was one of the largest operations of its kind in the UK since the Second World War, affecting more than 2,000 people.

At a cabinet meeting on July 25 Georgia Gould presented the council’s response to the independent review of the evacuation.

Ms Gould said: “We accept most of the report. It is an important piece of work which will inform emergency planning in Camden going forward.

“The evacuation was an incredibly difficult and chaotic process, especially given the lack of notice.

“We were aware of the enormous disruption it would cause to our residents. It was something we absolutely did not want to do, but were acting on the London Fire Brigade’s (LFB) advice.”

Author of the report, Marian Harrington, said her report was not intended to apportion blame, but to be read as a learning experience for the council.

She said: “Moving people can be really risky. A future suggestion to think about is where a risk assessment could be taken where the risks of moving people were assessed alongside the risks of staying put.

“Frail people, or those with pre-existing mental health conditions on the estate who we spoke to, were extremely traumatised by moving.”

Ms Harrington also said there is evidence that some council staff did not understand the evacuation was strictly voluntary, and failed to explain this situation consistently to residents.

Bob O’Toole, chair of the Chalcots Estate’s Burnham Tower Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) said afterwards: “I think things have been learned from what happened. I think the response from the council to the report was positive and they have already started to work on changes to the way things are done.

“As far as I am concerned the LFB’s decision was the wrong one, and the council tried to not have to make the decision to evacuate residents late on a Friday night. The media didn’t help either.”

• Pick up Thursday’s Ham&High to read one resident’s detailed account of the evacuation – and how the review “raises more questions than it answers”.

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