Town Hall’s investigation into Chalcots fire may leave questions unanswered
Residents warn: 'It is vital to get answers to these questions, trust cannot be restored without them'
17 November, 2017 — By William McLennan
Cladding being removed from the Chalcots estate towers last month
QUESTIONS over what led 3,000 people to be evacuated from their homes at a moment’s notice may never be fully answered in public.
An independent investigation into what went wrong at the Chalcots estate has been delayed as lawyers wrangle over who is to blame for failings which led London Fire Brigade to order everyone out in June and emergency safety work to be carried out.
Camden Council had pledged to review the whole operation, but residents have now been told that an on-going legal dispute means the investigation will only look at how the council dealt with the evacuation. A second phase, probing why the evacuation was triggered, has been promised, but the council has said it “may take us some time”.
Council leader Georgia Gould has pledged to “push for as much information to be shared at every stage” but has been forced to admit that this might leave some questions unanswered.
She has told residents: “Where we cannot share information, I will make sure that you understand why.” The New Journal understands that the nature of legal negotiations between the council and Partners for Improvement in Camden, the firm that won a £65million contract to refurbish, clad and maintain the blocks, means that an agreement could be reached that limits the information that can be made public.
Sasha Martin, the newly-appointed chair of Taplow tenants’ and residents’ association, said: “People want accountability, but it’s not going to happen from this. They are not going to be going deep and saying whose fault it was.” Nigel Rumble, who lives in Bray block, said: “I think it’s vital to get answers to these questions, because I don’t think the trust can be restored without it. If they don’t come clean with what went wrong with the contracts, how can people have confidence in the future?”
Residents have scores of questions over what went wrong in the seven years before the evacuation, including how their buildings came to be clad in a flammable material – the type that was later installed at Grenfell tower – and why internal defects picked up by London Fire Brigade had been left as a danger.
A spokesperson for PFI Camden said: “The safety of residents is paramount. We are in regular contact with Camden Council in regard to the work they are undertaking to resolve the situation and are supporting the council where we can.”
A Town Hall spokesman said the council was reviewing the issues with its lawyers