Great Britain

1,000 people including 700 students told to leave homes in London tower blocks immediately over cladding & safety fears

ABOUT 1,000 people are being asked to "immediately" quit their homes in six London tower blocks amid cladding and building safety fears.

Residents of the flats in the Paragon estate in Brentford, including nearly 700 students, will be offered alternative accommodation until the buildings are declared safe. 

The not-for-profit housing association Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) said it had taken the decision to vacate the estate following expert advice that "the construction of the buildings may be putting residents at risk".

NHG did not provide full details of the fire safety issues, but added: "Earlier building performance issues, together with fire safety issues related to the cladding and the subsequent new Government guidance since the fire at Grenfell Tower, triggered a series of safety checks at Paragon.

"They have each revealed further problems with this development."

Students were left feeling "freaked out" as they were informed of the need to vacate their flats via email and a series of Zoom calls, one teenager said.

Laura Howes, 19, in her first year studying business, said: "We've been told that we just need to leave as soon as possible pretty much, in that there's been a serious investigation into the safety of the building."

She added: "Now we're being moved to Wembley which is an hour and a half away which is just catastrophic for our courses."

Laura, who is only two days out of coronavirus self-isolation with friends, said the announcement was "very last minute" and warned that the pressures of moving were "going to have a massive toll on our education for the next couple of weeks, until we've all settled in".

Students, she said, had been offered a rent deduction, a month's worth of travel on Oyster cards and support in moving their belongings.

She said: "We have no idea when we're leaving, we know we'll be leaving some time as of tomorrow.

"We don't know where we're moving to specifically, we don't know the address, we don't know who we're living with, it's all very messy at the moment, it's a bit chaotic."

'BOMBSHELL NEWS'

Liz Wells, vice-chair of the Paragon residents committee, said the "bombshell" news was a "bit of a shock".

She said people had been asked to leave by the weekend "at the latest", but argued this would be "impossible" for those on holiday or restricted by work shifts.

Ms Wells claimed scaffolding was first put up on the estate in August 2018, and that NHG had "never been straight" with residents over what issues were being discovered.

She added: "The fact that we now have confirmation of that proves us... all along that the building is not safe and has not been safe for the past 14 years, quite frankly, ever since it was built."

Kate Davies, group chief executive of NHG, apologised to residents for having to "disrupt their lives", explaining its priority was "to provide safe, affordable housing".

She said: "I understand that Paragon residents may feel angry or alarmed by this news, as they have every right to be.

"This is a very distressing time and we are genuinely sorry for the huge amount of disruption and uncertainty that this situation will cause.

"This is a complex situation and we don't yet have all the answers."

A spokesman for the mayor of London said: "It is very concerning to hear that this building has been found to be unsafe and the mayor is pleased to see swift action being taken."

The University of West London said in a statement that all residents were informed at 11am on Monday.

It added: "Alternative accommodation has been secured for all those affected.

"Extensive support plans are in place to facilitate the smoothest possible transition to the new accommodation."

Two months before the Grenfell fire in 2017 London Fire Brigade warned all 33 councils in the capital about the risks of cladding on tower blocks.

Experts said the composite foam sandwich panels helped spread the fire quickly from the lower floors all the way up the block.

Grenfell Tower fire victims file lawsuit against US companies who manufactured 'flammable' cladding and insulation

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