Paragon complex: Nearly 500 students still in 'unsafe' tower block

By Sam Francis
BBC News, London

Image caption,
Scaffolding has been erected after faulty cavity barriers were found

Nearly 500 students remain living in a potentially unsafe housing complex in west London while waiting for alternative accommodation.

On Monday residents were told they must leave the Paragon complex in Brentford after faulty cavity barriers, which prevent flames spreading, were found.

Housing association Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) said it relocated 30% of the nearly 700 students living on-site.

One resident said she was "very, very scared" to stay living in the property.

As of Thursday evening, 207 students had been helped to move into alternative accommodation, NHG said.

A total of 481 remain on site.

'Absolutely terrified'

Laura Howes, 19, was placed in the building by the University of West London (UWL), where she is a student.

Ms Howes said she was "absolutely terrified" when a fire alarm went off at 04:30 BST on Thursday.

"I thought, 'what if this is it?'," she said.

"If this is proper fire, knowing what we know, we might not stand a chance."

No fire was discovered.

Image caption,
Notting Hill Genesis said about 481 students remained on site as of Thursday evening

Ms Howes said she had been expecting to move out on Wednesday before the plans changed at the last minute.

She said she now did not know when she would move into alternative accommodation.

"You live with the fear something bad might happen in the back of your mind," she said.

"We are losing trust in the people who are supposed to sorting this out."

'Extremely stressed'

Lily Gray, 18, who lives in UWL accommodation at Paragon, described plans to move students as a "shambles".

"Living here has caused me a lot of distress. Everyone's extremely stressed and feeling down," she said.

"It feels like I'm wasting my education. I keep missing days of lectures to move, but the move gets called off".

Berkeley Group, which built the property in 2006, has also been approached for comment.

Image source, PARAGON
Image caption,
Many residents at Paragon are students at the University of West London

About 300 other residents who had been living at the Paragon complex, but not in student accommodation, are gradually being moved to hotel rooms.

Those residents were given the choice over whether to find other accommodation or be housed in a nearby hotel.

The accommodation, which NHG said was a 10-minute walk away from Paragon, was secured before Monday's announcement.

NHG said it was providing financial support to all residents and mental health support 24 hours a day.

'Patience and understanding'

Since the Grenfell Tower fire, the building has had a "waking watch" to ensure residents are alerted in the event of a blaze.

Kate Davies, NHG's group chief executive, said: "We apologise to any students whose moves haven't run as smoothly as we would have liked, and thank them for their patience and understanding while we make final arrangements.

"We are working as hard as we can to move all students into new accommodation as quickly as possible.

"As a not-for-profit housing association, our first duty is to the health and safety of the people who live in our buildings.

"We take fire safety extremely seriously, and have worked with the London Fire Brigade and other stakeholders to put in place measures to manage this risk, including the provision of 24-hour fire wardens. "

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