Camden flats being evacuated over cladding

More than 800 homes in tower blocks on a council estate in Camden, north London, are being evacuated because of safety concerns over cladding in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Camden Council says people in flats in five towers on the Chalcots estate will be moved for “urgent fire safety works” – and it is “block-booking hotels”.

Similar cladding was used on the building to that on the Grenfell Tower.

A total of 79 people are feared dead after the fire in north Kensington.

Camden Council said it will remove external thermal cladding from five tower blocks on the estate.

The council had said it would carry out regular fire safety patrols and safety checks to reassure residents.

It had initially announced the evacuation of one tower block, Taplow, but later extended the move to all five tower blocks it had checked.

Council leader Georgia Gould said residents of the estate attended a public meeting with council officials on Thursday evening.

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She said: “Camden Council is absolutely determined to ensure that our residents are safe and we have promised them that we will work with them, continue to act swiftly and be open and transparent.”

She said London Fire Brigade had completed a joint inspection of the blocks with Camden Council technical experts.

‘Greenfell changes everything’

It was decided the flats needed to be “temporarily decanted” to allow the work “so that residents can be fully assured of their safety. This means that we need to move residents from their homes and into temporary accommodation”.

Ms Gould said the work is expected to take three to four weeks.

She added: “Grenfell changes everything and I don’t believe we can take any risks.”

A rest centre had been set up and residents were being found hotels and other accommodation, Ms Gould said.

Speaking to the Press Association, resident Michelle Urquhart said: “It’s a bit frightening.

“At the moment they haven’t done it and they are saying they will knock on everyone’s doors when they are ready.”

Ms Urquhart , who lives in the estate’s Bray tower added: “I don’t know where we are going to go. I’m so angry because we had the meeting with the council last night and they tried to reassure us.

“We have been living in these flats for the last 10 years with this cladding.”

Police investigation

The announcement came as the Metropolitan Police said the Grenfell Tower fire started in a fridge-freezer, and outside cladding and insulation failed safety tests.

Detectives say manslaughter, health and safety, and fire safety charges will be considered as part of their investigation.

A national operation to identify buildings with cladding similar to that used in Grenfell Tower has seen local authorities send samples for independent tests.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said 14 residential high-rise buildings in nine local authority areas have now been found with cladding that raises safety concerns.

A DCLG spokesman said: “The safety of residents is paramount. Camden Council and the Fire and Rescue Service are rightly working together to implement their responsibilities under the Emergency Fire Safety Review that we sent them…

“This is clearly distressing for those involved and the every effort will be made to reduce the disruption as they make temporary arrangements in line with their emergency plans.

“The government, through London Resilience, is offering every assistance in getting this done as swiftly and safely as possible.”

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