Tensions mount as residents refuse to leave unsafe Camden tower blocks


A woman refusing to leave her flat in a Camden tower block that has been evacuated over fire safety fears has said: “We are not the villains here, we are the victims.”

Chalcots Estate resident Mandy Ryan said she felt intimidated and “bullied” by security as she tried to exit the building which the local council are trying to evacuate amid concerns over its cladding.

The mother said her and her son, who has disabilities, were offered temporary accommodation in Haringey as the local authority scrambled to clear the site after fire experts said it was unsafe.

But Ms Ryan said she was “appalled” that it was in a state of disrepair when they arrived and returned to her north London home despite Camden Council warning residents “must leave.”

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A police officer stands outside Dorney Tower, part of the Chalcots Estate (AP)

On refusing to evacuate her home, she said: “We are not the villains here, we are the victims. We are not trying to impede any work whatsoever, we just want suitable accommodation. 

“We are all scared, we are disrupted, we don’t know how we are going to cope, cook, wash or anything at the moment.”

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Thousands were evacuated from the tower blocks (EPA)

People living in 20 flats on the estate were still refusing to vacate their homes late on Saturday evening as the local authority warned it could explore legal routes to “require people to leave their homes.”

Chalcots Estate resident accosts Camden Leader Georgia Gould

The local authority’s leader Georgia Gould said her staff would continue to knock on residents’ doors and issue more letters to those who remain, telling them they “must leave” on Sunday morning.

The towers have been found to be covered with the same type of cladding as used at Grenfell, five miles to the south west, where at least 79 people died in the June 14 tragedy.

On top of internal issues surrounding gas pipes, insulation and fire doors, combined with the flammable panelling, the building has been declared unsafe by the fire service.

Ms Ryan, who shares her 22nd-floor flat with her son, said the whole experience of the evacuation so far was “disruptive” as tensions rise between residents and the council.

She said: “We are all scared, we are disrupted, we don’t know how we are going to cope, cook, wash or anything at the moment.”

On the temporary property her household was offered by the local authority, Ms Ryan complained of broken glass and a faulty cooker – branding it “a joke.”

She claimed security, who reportedly are working to continue the Camden evacuation process, tried to intimate her as she took her dog for a walk on Sunday morning.

“I was bullied this morning trying to leave the building, he [the security guard] stood in front of the door and guys surrounded him and he said ‘we need to know who you are’,” she said.

She said she was told by the man, who she has not seen before, that she could not take her animals outside.

The ongoing effort to clear the estate 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, Barnet, Brent, Hounslow and Camden.

Council leader Ms Gould said: “Remaining residents in Taplow, Bray, Dorney and Burnham should evacuate their blocks and take up one of our temporary accommodation options, as this is the safest place for you to be. 

“Keeping our residents safe is our number one priority. There are various legal routes that Camden Council could explore to require people to leave their homes – however, we really don’t want to do this. 

“We want to work with residents who are yet to evacuate and strongly encourage them to leave their homes and fix up temporary accommodation.”

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

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