Fire safety - our work in Camden

Fire safety

Fire safety is top of all our concerns. Councillor Sian Berry will keep you updated here on the latest news and work Greens are doing in Camden to keep residents safe, informed and involved in the management of their homes.

Sian Berry says:

"As soon as the Grenfell disaster happened, the implications for Camden were clear. The same contractor had been used to clad towers on our Chalcots estate under a PFI deal, and residents in many of our buildings were concerned to know whether the failings of management, repairs and oversight seen in Kensington and Chelsea were happening here too.

"When the news came that not only was the same cladding fitted to the Chalcots towers, but that massive internal defects that would encourage the spread of fire had been discovered by the Fire Brigade, I and councillors from across Camden joined the huge effort to help people who had to be evacuated. From the work I did in the relief centre in Swiss Cottage that week, and through communication and visits with residents since, I know that there are still many questions and concerns, and I've been working to get these answered.

"I've also been calling for a fully independent review of what led to this crisis, which must be resident-led and comprehensive.

"Here I'll maintain an online resource for residents with key information and links, including any information released by the Council, the statements I have made and the questions I have asked."

Freedom of information requests


1. Fire inspection reports on Chalcots estate

2. Fire safety information for Highgate ward estates

I made the two Freedom of Information requests above to get more information on previous fire inspections at Chalcots and information for residents in Highgate's council blocks on what their most recent fire risk assessments have said. 

Camden at first only published a partial 'composite response' to a range of FOIs it has received on Chalcots.

This didn't answer my questions though it did show how out of date the fire risk assessments for Camden's taller blocks are, and it didn't promise publication of what I asked for. They also refused my request to publish risk assessments for all Highgate blocks. 

I put my requests in for 'internal review' as the first stage of appeal, and now the reviewer has concluded Camden should provide the documents - though they have not all yet been provided, and the Highgate documents show that many serious issues have been neglected for years.

I wrote to the UK Information Commissioner in July in my capacity as a London Assembly Member to ask her to issue advice to all councils on the public interest of releasing full fire safety information to residents. She wrote back in August and agreed with me, and has issued strong advice to councils to publish full information, saying "don't wait to be asked". Camden needs to listen to this advice now and give residents all the information they are asking for to be fully aware of how safe they are. 

Fire Risk Assessments online

The Council has now released Fire Risk Assessments for blocks above 10 storeys - these are available on a map on its website here. Unfortunately none of Highgate's blocks are above nine floors and so they don't appear yet.

Camden fire risk assessments - open data

Ham&High articleStill kept in dark over Chalcots safety

Column in the Ham&High newspaper, August 2017 - click image to read more

Further articles from the Ham&High: 

Release all the documents: After Grenfell and Chalcots, we must have transparency

Sian Berry's Forum article in the Camden New Journal, 13 July 2017

Further articles from the Camden New Journal's investigation:

  • Confusion persists over tower block safety measures
    20 July 2017

    “What we do know is that it was after the Green Party councillor Sian Berry asked for historic fire risk assessments that council leader Georgia Gould said they would be published. It took nearly three weeks before publication last week on the council’s website.”
  • Chalcots: What was sacrificed in PFI deal to please Treasury’s penny-pinchers?
    6 July 2017

    Green councillor Sian Berry has drawn up a list of documents which she says Camden must release if it is serious about an open and transparent investigation – including the PFI contracts. “The full contract documentation must be released in the lead up to the inquiry, including the documents that relate to the change of spec when the plans were changed in 2005,” she said.
  • Revealed: Chalcots tower block fire safety report did not include ‘biggest risk'
    29 June 2017

    Green councillor Sian Berry, who has also volunteered for several days at the rest centre, said: “I rang London Fire Brigade and spoke with an officer who said the critical issues, including inside the buildings, far exceed the level of risk for them to issue a legal order, and that they would have issued an Article 31 prohibition notice if Camden had not evacuated. It was then technically Camden’s decision to do this as a pre-emptive measure but the council literally had no choice.”

Speech at Full Council meeting 3 July 2017

In this I call for full transparency, more resident involvement in major works across the borough and a fully independent, resident-led review of what happened to lead to the crisis at Chalcots. 

 

Camden evacuation – clear info needed on what the Fire Brigade told the council

Reaction to the evacuation - June 2017 - via Camden New Journal on twitter

 

Read more on my website about my concerns that people were not heeding the call to leave the blocks because the council's communications were not clear about the advice of the London Fire Brigade.

 

Next meeting

Tuesday 18 September

August social: Explore the Camden Highline (click here fore more)  

7pm, Crossroads Women's Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, Kentish Town, NW5 2DX.