Barking fire: Residents return home despite concerns
Residents have been told to return to their homes on an estate partially destroyed by fire, despite ongoing safety concerns.
Some 20 properties were destroyed and another 10 damaged when fire engulfed Samuel Garside House, Barking, in June.
Funding to place all residents in temporary accommodation during fire safety checks ended on Friday.
Residential Management Group (RMG) said "the building is completely safe for residents to return home".
Samuel Garside House is owned by Adriatic Land, which currently employs RMG to manage the day-to-day running of the block.
An RMG spokesperson said: "Two investigations, including a... risk assessment, didn't identify anything that should prevent re-occupation.
"A number of mitigating measures and remedial works have already been implemented."
The development currently has security guards patrolling 24 hours a day on the lookout for fire.
Barking and Dagenham Council published findings of a health and safety investigation on 18 October.
The report found there were "no Category 1 hazards remaining" in the property, which would have prevented re-occupation.
However, the report highlighted ongoing safety concerns.
Openings "allowing for the potential of fire to spread upwards" remained on the property.
No evidence was provided to confirm external wooden timbers were "non-combustible", so the council assumed the timbers "remain a significant risk to the spread of fire".
Former resident Mihaela Gheorghe said she would not return.
"I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'm not going back," she said. "Nothing has been changed since we were forced out by the fire."
Fellow resident Constantin Ghergic said: "I feel like leaving the country. I don't want to live here anymore.
"It's still a fire risk. Why should I risk my life if I pay my taxes, and my mortgage, and all of sudden I'm in this situation?"
Peter Mason, chairman of the Barking Reach Residents' Association, said: "The landlords have made no attempt to clearly set out to these traumatised residents how they intend to rectify... hazards which the building owners must address..."
Barking and Dagenham Council said: "Unfortunately there are no legal channels available to the council prohibiting work from being carried out with residents in situ.
"While we have exhausted all our legal powers, right now unfortunately all we can do is put pressure on the building owners to make sure they manage the return of residents with consideration of the traumatic events that occurred."