Four tower blocks near Old Kent Road to be evacuated over safety fears in wake of Grenfell Tower fire

Four tower blocks in south-east London home to hundreds of residents are to be evacuated over gas safety fears following investigations carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

People living in the thirteen-storey blocks on the Ledbury Estate near Old Kent Road have been told they will have to move out in the coming weeks.

The gas supply to the building has been shut off leaving most residents unable to cook and with no hot water or heating. 

Southwark Council has written a letter to residents saying officials have arranged for them to use the shower facilities at any of the leisure centres in the borough if they provide proof of address.

It added that it would immediately provide temporary hotplates so that residents could prepare meals and would provide an upfront payment to cover any increase in electricity bills.

Residents evacuated from tower blocks claim homes still unsafe

The letter reads: “As you know in response to concerns about cracks in the Ledbury Towers raised by residents following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Southwark Council instructed structural engineers from Arup to investigate the cause of the cracking.”

It added: “Records show that a gas supply was installed when the blocks were built around 1968/1970 soon after a gas explosion at the similarly constructed Ronan Point block in Newham caused a partial collapse of that block.

“Records showed that the design of the Ledbury blocks and other blocks across the country had been strengthened following Ronan Point, to make them safe to carry a gas supply.”

“Earlier today we heard from Arup, who regrettably informed us, based on their structural investigations, that the information we have regarding the history of the blocks may not be correct, and we have therefore taken the decision to turn off the gas supply to all Ledbury tower blocks immediately.”

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Councillor Stephanie Cryan, Southwark’s deputy leader and cabinet member for housing, said: “At every stage of this investigation, we have put residents’ safety first, and acted on the best information available. We didn’t own the blocks when they were constructed at the end of the 1960s, but all the reports we found suggested the blocks were strengthened following the Ronan Point incident in 1968, to make them safe to include a gas supply.

“Arup’s structural investigations suggest this strengthening may not have occurred, and we have therefore turned off the gas, until further investigations can be done. We are doing all we can to provide residents with alternatives while the gas is turned off, and are working up a plan to permanently replace the gas with electric ovens, boilers etc as part of the wider works, should that be necessary.

“We have also written to the Department of Communities and Local Government to inform them of this issue, as it may well have implications for other blocks around the country that were constructed in this way.”

This story is being updated.

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