Around 200 residents refuse to leave homes despite fire fears

Georgia Gold, Camden council leader, talks to angry residents and the press outside the Swiss Cottage leisure centre in North London about the evacuation of Chalcots estate. Picture: SWNS
Georgia Gold, Camden council leader, talks to angry residents and the press outside the Swiss Cottage leisure centre in North London about the evacuation of Chalcots estate. Picture: SWNS
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Some 200 residents are refusing to leave four tower blocks evacuated over fire safety concerns in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, the leader of Camden Council has said.

Georgia Gould said she will knock on doors herself to persuade people still occupying 120 households in the Chalcots Estate in north London to vacate their homes.

She took the decision to clear 600 flats on Friday night after London Fire Brigade inspecting officers identified concerns over the combination of external cladding, fire doors, gas pipes and insulation.

READ MORE - Angry tenants defy evacuation order as 34 blocks fail fire tests

Around 60 people stayed in nearby Swiss Cottage leisure centre on Saturday night, as 3,000 displaced residents faced weeks in temporary accommodation.

But despite being urged to leave by officials, around 200 people in 120 households had refused to vacate their homes, in Taplow, Burnham, Bray and Dorney blocks, by Sunday afternoon.

Ms Gould explained some residents have issues, including agoraphobia, and want to be sure they have got suitable accommodation before moving out of their flats.

“I’m going myself back to the blocks to knock on doors and have those conversations,” she told BBC News, adding: “The last thing I want to do is force people out of their homes, and the conversations I have been having with residents in these buildings is that they are happy to work with us.”

The ongoing evacuation effort comes after the Government revealed all of the 34 high-rises that have so far submitted cladding samples have failed combustibility tests.

The buildings are located in 17 local authorities across the country, including Manchester, Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Camden, Barnet, Brent, and Hounslow, in London.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid urged local authorities and housing associations to continue to submit samples “as a matter of urgency” amid a nationwide safety operation launched after at least 79 people died when fire ripped through Grenfell Tower in north Kensington on June 14.

READ MORE - Leader: Organised panic unavoidable after Grenfell Tower

Refurbishment of the Chalcots Estate was overseen by Rydon, the company involved in the refit of Grenfell Tower, according to the Rydon website.

The site said the Chalcots project was a £66 million refurbishment which lasted 191 weeks.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has backed the council’s decision to evacuate the tower blocks.

“I think they’ve done the right thing. Look, you’ve got to err on the side of caution. You can’t play Russian roulette with people’s safety,” he told Sky News.

The council said it could take two to four weeks for the four blocks to be made safe.