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Call for clarity over safety at Chalcots

18 August, 2017 — By John Gulliver

Taplow tower at the Chalcots estate

THE words of one of my favourite poets, Sir John Betjeman, caught me during a very good television documentary about the great man, by AN Wilson on Sunday evening.

John Betjeman referred to “the inhumanity of the tall towers”.

So, once again, my mind was dragged back to the Grenfell Tower inferno and, later, the sudden evacuation of hundreds of families from the Chalcots estate by Camden Council.

I have noticed that the social implications of the disaster at Grenfell Tower seem to be attracting less and less public debate than when it first dominated social discourse.

John Betjeman

This is to be expected, I suppose, but it would be an abdication of responsibilities not to put matters right after the preventable tragedy at Grenfell Tower.

Meanwhile, it appears as though Camden council is burying its head in the sand. I say “appears” because council officials do not want to publicly acknowledge what is wrong with the plastic windows in the flats on the estate.

But as I disclosed in this column, the plastic windows are built into a cavity wall that could act as a chimney for flames, enveloping one flat after another in the event of a fire.

This was recognised when Camden council replaced all the window sills in the communal corridors with fire-resistant board.

If these sills had to be replaced, then why not the other window sills, too?

I asked this question two weeks ago – but answer came there none! It cannot be said that the council has not been warned.

AN Wilson

If, of course, the council can produce definitive evidence supplied by independent experts that the window frames present no danger, I shall be the first to admit my error.

But let’s not forget that they were installed during the controversial, privately financed refurbishment of the estate in 2006, approved then by Labour politician Yvette Cooper.

While tenants have now returned to their homes, some left wondering why they were forced to leave in the first place, I gather many are perplexed by closers that have been fixed to their front doors which do not work properly. So much so, that some tenants have removed them.

Letters have been sent by the council, apparently, warning them not to meddle with the closers.

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