Chalcots Tower fire safety measures 'shoddy and incomplete'

Almost six weeks ago, in the wake of the devastating Grenfell Tower blaze, fire safety concerns prompted the evacuation of 3,000 people - with little notice - from their homes in four tower blocks on another London estate. Many residents were angry then and they are fearful now - worried that the "urgent" works they were moved out for have been rushed and shoddily done.

More than 700 flats on the Chalcots estate in north-west London were emptied, with families housed first on air beds in a nearby leisure centre and later in hotels. Residents in all but two flats have now moved back in but the situation looks far from resolved.

David lives at the top of a tower on the Swiss Cottage development and has a list of issues with the state of the building.

His block, Taplow, and three others on the estate are clad in the same combustible material used at Grenfell Tower.

At the time of the evacuations Camden Council, which owns the blocks, said improvements were needed to the internal, communal areas of the towers.

The council says the urgent works have now been signed off but David (not his real name) believes the work is incomplete.

Filming on the estate was not allowed but photographs taken by the BBC illustrate some of his concerns.

David's worries start with his front door and the mechanism, called a closer, which is designed to automatically pull the door shut. It is a key factor because people faced with a fire often flee without remembering to close doors behind them.

The one fitted to David's front door has already broken, and if a fire was to happen a door left open would do nothing to stop fire spilling out from inside the flat to the corridor.

David points out a succession of other problems, including a sizeable gap at the bottom of his neighbour's front door.

A secure front door is a key barrier to keeping fires contained for as long as possible - but David demonstrates how quickly he fears flames will be able to get past this particular barrier.

"I can get my entire hand under the front door and if your hand was a fire it'd be out in seconds," he says, kneeling down to demonstrate his point.

Non-slip strips in the fire escape stairwell - in place so that residents can see each step - are worn and barely visible even in daylight.

"Imagine what they'd be like when the lights are off - they are clearly not fit for purpose," David says.

Image caption Safety strips should be visible across these fire escape steps

Camden Council has reassured residents that fire marshals will be seated on each floor, 24 hours a day, to ensure their safety.

But David claims they have not had the correct training.

"They themselves have told us they have none," David said.

"A lot of them are standard security guys who have come from agencies and have been told to put on an orange apron and double up as a fire marshal.

"None have training whatsoever," he says.

His concerns are echoed by independent surveyor and fire safety expert Arnold Tarling.

"From what I have seen in one flat in Taplow and in the common parts, the building is not safe," he said.

'Fobbed off'

David says he has been unable to get a straight answer from the council.

"I've written to the council on numerous occasions, and my MP and the chief councillor, and I've been fobbed off [by the council] with copied and pasted text they've been publishing on their website.

"They aren't answering my questions directly. I've been asking for reassurances and they've not offered one."

Image copyright EMPICS Image caption Exposed electrical cables were covered by cardboard

Ella May is a single mother-of-three who lives on the ground floor of Taplow. She also feels the urgent works have not been properly completed.

She showed the BBC a mass of exposed electrical cables running out of her fuse box into a gaping hole in the ceiling.

She says the cables were covered by a council-contracted electrician using cardboard.

A week ago the council told her re-boxing the cables properly was urgent safety work but now she has been told the work is superficial.

Image caption Resident Ella May was told the work required to re-box electrical cables was 'superficial'

Camden Council told the BBC it had completed the urgent works identified by the London Fire Brigade (LFB), relating to fire containment issues inside the blocks.

The LFB said it had visited the premises since the work began and was satisfied sufficient progress had been made to allow a phased re-occupation of the building.

There is further work planned by the council to improve fire doors, it added.

Read more news on our site.

bbc
ChalcotsTower firesafety
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
4 views in october
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Society
A village famous for its new year tradition of men prancing around with flaming barrels of tar on their heads has added another unusual string to its bow, by becoming home to a museum of science fiction props - which has opened in the cellar of the curator's house. Adventures in Science Fiction is the latest historical depository to join the 2,500 museums already in the UK. And with so many to choose from, there must be a museum to please pretty much every...
Society
An “influential" black firefighter from London who experienced racial abuse at work today calls for others  to “step up and champion equality” as he retires after nearly 30 years.  Michael Nicholas MBE, who this week retired from London Fire Brigade, campaigned for equal rights in the workforce after experiencing “widespread” racism during his career. Hailing Mr Nicholas as the “UK’s most influential black firefighter” in a statement following his retireme...
Society
Would you trust a taxi with no driver? Taxi firm Addison Lee is betting its customers will be ready to, in London at least, in just three years' time. It has joined forces with self-driving software specialist Oxbotica, and says the tie-up means it will offer self-driving taxis in the capital by 2021. The move will pit it against rival ride-hailing app Uber, which is also planning to roll out driverless cars on its network in the future, pending regulatory...
Crime
A senior US military commander has called on the UK to take back Islamic State fighters who have been "caught on the battlefield" in Syria. Maj Gen Patrick Roberson, commander of US special ops, also called on the government to repatriate two Londoners who have been called the "IS Beatles". The UK says El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey have been stripped of their British citizenship. The government is negotiating for them to face trial in the US. Speak...
Society
A woman has died in a suspected gas explosion in north-west London. Her body was found in a first-floor flat destroyed in the blast in Fulbeck Way, Harrow, just before 01:00 BST Sunday. Another woman, a man and a baby were rescued from a second-floor flat, with the woman and child taken to hospital. About 70 firefighters tackled the flames and 40 neighbours were evacuated from their homes. The Met is investigating. The victim, believed to be in her 80s, ha...
Society
About 13 million adults in the UK live in areas where at least half of the local banks and building societies have closed, analysis by the BBC reveals. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show nearly 6,000 local branches have shut since 2010, a fall of a third. The consumer group Which? called the number of closures "alarming". Trade association UK Finance said closing a branch was a last resort when usage falls. Banks and building societ...
Society
A ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars should be brought forward by eight years to 2032, MPs have said. The government's current plans to ensure all new cars are "effectively zero emission" by 2040 were "vague and unambitious", a report by Parliament's business select committee said. It also criticised cuts to subsidies and the lack of charging points. The government said it aimed to make the UK "the best place in the world" to own an electric vehicl...
Society
London area home sales fell 15.9 per cent in September from August because of a shortage of homes to sell, and that shortage of inventory helped push up prices by 20 per cent from a year ago, the head of the London St. Thomas Association of Realtors (LSTAR) said. In September, LSTAR reported 776 homes changed hands in London and St. Thomas, compared to a near-record August, when 923 homes were sold. By the numbers Homes sold in September: 776 (a drop of 6....
Society
Radical preacher Anjem Choudary, jailed for inviting support for the Islamic State group, has been released. The cleric was sentenced in 2016 to five-and-a-half years in prison. He led an extremist network linked to violent jihadists, including one of the killers of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013. Choudary, 51, has now served half of his sentence and will complete the rest under strict supervision. Police are preparing up to 25 measures to control him, the BBC...