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View from the Chamber: Town hall has failed Chalcots miserably

PUBLISHED: 12:00 07 April 2018

Archant

Ever since the evacuation of the Chalcots towers, I have been running around with my fellow Belsize councillors trying to fix problems and help people that have fallen through the cracks at Camden Council.

For months, disabled residents in the Chalcots’ Taplow tower have been denied access to bin storage due to a lack of disabled access. As a disabled woman myself, I found this indignity particularly outrageous, and I asked the leader of Camden Council to ensure it was fixed immediately. The next day, things started moving – that’s the power of having a councillor fight for you! But that’s the end of the good news.

Builders put together a few pieces of words, screws, and hasty concrete. In the end, the ramp that was built isn’t fit for purpose, doesn’t meet the criteria for disabled access, and gave wheelchair-bound residents no clearance to access the ramp. If anything, it’s a trip hazard. But then again, it appears as though Camden has done its job. Chalcots residents have long grown to understand that appearance has rarely been reality.

The rush to conduct work means much of it has been poorly-planned, poorly consulted-on, and has had to be redone. Some communal fire doors need to be refitted, with some of them actually wedging into one another: rendering them completely useless in the event of fire!

Residents on the lower floors have not had access to natural light since the scaffolding went up. The overwhelming amount of dust means residents have been unable to open their windows: leading to mould growing due to condensation in the poorly-ventilated flats.

On the upper floors, windows are often broken by the mast climbers going up and down. Some residents have been waiting weeks for repairs while the chilled air gets through the broken windows. This has required them to pay ever more for energy to keep them warm through the cold winter, with the cost of extra electricity for the boilers felt throughout the blocks.

The reality for many Chalcots residents, though, is that the rush to complete works has meant vital improvements to their everyday lives have fallen by the wayside. Some residents’ boilers needed replacing, but this was overlooked, meaning they spent the winter in sub-zero temperatures with young children or elderly parents. This mirrors the freezing experience of residents in Swiss Cottage’s Harben Road and Kilburn’s Rowley Way estates, too.

Mahatma Gandhi said: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” But the experience of Chalcots residents – who have undoubtedly been among our most vulnerable during one of the most harrowing experiences in Camden’s history – does not speak well of the council.

Information has been drip-fed to residents to give the appearance of communication. However, both residents and councillors have been denied the right to read the independent report by Marian Harrington on the evacuation. Camden is refusing to consult fully with residents on the £25million window replacement.

Chalcots residents have been through hell over the past nine months. It’s imperative Camden listens to residents more, rectifies what’s gone wrong, and makes sure nobody has to go through this hell again.

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