London

Chalcots Estate tower blocks: Council to sue refurbishment group

Blashford tower on the Chalcots Estate in Camden Image copyright PA
Image caption Towers on the Chalcots Estate had similar cladding to Grenfell Tower

A north London council that evacuated thousands of people from tower blocks following the Grenfell Tower fire plans to sue those who refurbished the flats.

Camden Council said it spent "millions" evacuating about 3,000 residents on the Chalcots Estate in Swiss Cottage after cladding safety tests in June 2017.

The council hopes legal action will "recover" some costs by taking action against a group of companies.

One of the implicated subcontractors, Rydon, has not yet commented.

A survey in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people, identified 228 other buildings where cladding failed safety tests.

The council said it was forced to evacuate four of the Chalcots tower blocks because the external cladding failed tests and multiple other internal fire safety failures were discovered.

Chalcots was refurbished between 2006 and 2009 by the same firm, Rydon, that oversaw work at Grenfell Tower in 2015-16.

Image copyright PA
Image caption About 3,000 residents on the Chalcots Estate were told to evacuate in June 2017, shortly after the Grenfell Tower fire
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Media captionA local shows us around a Chalcots Estate evacuation centre

Rydon was one of the companies subcontracted to work at Chalcots by Partners for Improvement in Camden (PFIC). PFIC went into liquidation earlier this year after the council stopped paying it.

The firm leading the insolvency process has been asked to comment on behalf of PFIC.

Camden Council is yet to decide exactly what legal proceedings it will take, but a spokesman said it would focus on those with "responsibility for undertaking the defective works and the subsequent maintenance of the buildings".

This would implicate Rydon as the subcontractor for refurbishment and maintenance services, as well as a heating company.

Camden Council said it had been given £80m of government money to remove and replace dangerous cladding from tower blocks as part of a £400m country-wide scheme to make buildings safer.

Image copyright PA Wire
Image caption Camden council leader Georgia Gould said Chalcots residents have been "let down"

The council would not go into detail about which costs it hoped to recover from legal action, but said expense incurred since June 2017 not covered by the £80m include:

  • £12.5m spent on evacuating the Chalcots Estate, providing temporary accommodation and securing the site
  • Paying for an estimated increase of 30-40% to residents' gas bills incurred while Chalcots' tower blocks have no cladding on them
  • £25m on fire safety works across the borough
  • £19m for doing and acting on fire risk assessments on council-owned properties

Council leader Georgia Gould said: "We are clear that our residents have been let down and we will be taking steps to hold the parties responsible to recover our losses."

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