View from the street: Chalcots window plan is muddled

Residents from Chalcots tower blocks now need windows replacing.

Residents from Chalcots tower blocks now need windows replacing. - Credit: Archant

On Monday morning the Labour-run council unveiled its (latest) plan for the Chalcots – to replace all the windows on the estate at a cost of more than £30 million, bringing the total cost of the project to £80m.

This plan, put together without consulting the people who live in the towers, is breathtaking for its arrogance and muddled thinking. To be clear about the extent of what it involves, it isn’t just replacing glass, but removing the entire window system, stripping back to the bare concrete and starting again. This would be a further huge intrusion into the lives of Chalcots residents, greater than anything since the evacuation. The current windows, put in 10 years ago, are supposed to have a 30-year lifespan.

Last year’s decision to replace the cladding was made because the towers were clad in the same flammable material as Grenfell; this was a very good reason to undertake a major project! The residents were consulted and given different options to consider, before the decision was made. Replacing the windows will be far more disruptive for residents and yet there has been zero consultation, no effort by the council to gauge the views of the people whose lives will be affected. The decision to proceed is set to be made cabinet on March 21, just nine days after the Tenants and Residents Associations (TRAs) were made aware of the plans. Instead of being given options to examine and comment on, residents will be shown what they are going to get after the decision has been made. And

the ‘option’ (as the council describes it) will be an inward-opening window system that residents resoundingly rejected

10 years ago when the cladding and current windows were first installed.

The reasons given by the council for undertaking these works – safety concerns, better insulation, tidying the warranty arrangements – have some merit, but do not warrant ignoring the wishes of the many hundreds of people living in the towers. I attended a meeting on Monday evening hosted by Taplow’s TRA for residents from all five blocks to talk about the plans. There were a lot of angry people there. Older people were worried about the disruption to their lives, families were concerned about the impact of more dusty construction work on their children’s health, and leaseholders were concerned that, despite assurances from the council, they would be left with large bills.

It would be entirely wrong to proceed with this project without a proper consultation process. A pause would also give the council the space to consider its options more carefully and fully investigate whether there are less disruptive and less expensive ways of achieving its aims. I call on the Labour council to back off and ask that they show some respect to the people who live on the Chalcots. They must find out what residents think first, before rushing ahead with these insensitive plans.