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High rise residents in Camden want answers in wake of Grenfell Tower blaze

Urgent answered needed on type of "cladding" fitted at Chalcots Estate, residents say

15 June, 2017 — By William McLennan

The 23-storey Bray and Dorney in Adelaide Road

FIVE high-rise blocks in Swiss Cottage were refurbished by a construction firm that is now under the spotlight after the devastating Grenfell Tower fire which has claimed at least 17 lives.

Residents of the Chalcots Estate, which is made up of five 23-storey towers in Adelaide Road, are demanding urgent answers after it was revealed that Rydon, one of the contractors responsible for “cladding” the fire-gutted block in west London had also worked on their homes.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan this morning called for an independent public inquiry and said that answers must be produced within weeks, following “concerns about the safety of other tower blocks”.

Before the flames were out in Kensington yesterday, questions were being asked about the role of the aluminium and plastic cladding that had been added to the exterior of the 1970s block in 2015.

This type of cladding – which has a core made of a type of plastic called polyethylene – is being blamed for allowing flames to spread, although the circumstances are still under investigation. Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a full public inquiry as both she and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited the scene of the tragedy earlier today.

Simon Happily, who lives on the 22nd floor of one of the Chalcots, said they have many unanswered questions, adding: “The urgent one is we don’t know wether we have the polyethylene in our cladding.”

Mr Happily said that they had currently been given the same “stay-put” advice – where people are told to remain in their home and wait for the fire brigade in the event of a fire – but he thought this would be useless if their homes were covered in the polyethylene cladding.

He said: “Obviously if we have the same cladding, the stay put advice may no longer be relevant. God forbid there is another fire, we don’t know whether we stay or get the hell out.”

A note posted in the lobby of 22-storey Dorney, Adelaide Road

A 2004 planning application for the refurbishment works, seen by the New Journal, states that the cladding will be “composite sandwich type material”, but does not detail wether the core will be made of polyethylene or a less flammable substance.

It said that cladding was chosen over painting or cleaning of the facades because of “the inherent need to radically improve the insulation and rain proofing of the towers”.

It added: “Rendering was another mooted alternative, but discolouring and on going maintenance costs (although cheaper at the outset), escalates over the lifetime of the buildings, discounting the viability of this option.”

Mandy Ryan, who lives on the 22nd floor of Dorney, said: “Our concern now is, have we got similar cladding. I’d like to see the original paper work we had on the table. As far as I can remember, the cladding on the first five floors is filled, but we’re not sure what it’s filled with.”

Molly Hallam, who lives on the 21st floor with her husband and daughters, aged two and eight, said that the council should install sprinklers and begin fire drills.

Ms Hallam, who has lived there for 10 years, said: “When I first moved in here I thought: ‘This is so high up, how are we going to get down’. But I hadn’t thought about it again until now. You can see [Grenfell Tower] from our window.

“It was pretty scary last night. Even though it’s really unlikely to happen, you just think ‘what if’. How will I get down 21 storeys?”

Rydon worked on the Chalcot under a PFI refurbishment of the tower blocks that line the road from Chalk Farm Station to Swiss Cottage Library.

Mr Khan said: “The full scale of the tragedy is becoming clear and there are pressing questions, which demand urgent answers. That is why I am demanding a full, independent public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower.

“In light of concerns about the safety of other tower blocks that have been similarly refurbished the inquiry needs to produce an interim report by the end of this summer at the latest.”

A spokesman for Rydon said they could not comment on the type of cladding used in the Chalcots, but referred the New Journal to their public statement, which states: “The project met all required building regulations and handover took place when the completion notice was issued by the Department of Building Control, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.”

Camden Council said that they are confident in their “fire safety procedures,” but said that “additional checks will be made to reassure residents”.

A council spokesman said last night: “We stand ready to respond to any new advice from London Fire Brigade that may emerge from today’s tragic incident.”

It is understood that council officers are to hold urgent talks with Rydon.

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