29 October 2017
Fire safety is top of all our concerns. Councillor Sian Berry has been challenging Camden to release all the fire risk assessments for Chalcots and in her ward of Highgate.
After an appeal, the council has now released the docuements for Highgate but the older fire risk assessments for Chalcots are still missing.
We're very disappointed with this and Sian has asked again why these documents are missing.
Sian Berry says:
Residents in many of our buildings are concerned to know what failings there might be in fire safety for their buildings. Many buildings are well designed and haven't seen the same disastrous failings as under the Chalcots PFI. However, issues like replacing front doors to protect stairways, maintaining emergency lighting and other defects are known to be found in some of our estates and I wanted the HIghgate residents I represent to see what work had been recommended for their buildings in recent fire risk assessments (FRAs).
I lodged two Freedom of Information requests in July - one for older FRAs for Chalcots, and one for all the blocks of council homes in Highgate Ward, including smaller blocks.
Both were initially refused. The Council is putting information on blocks over 10 storeys on its website, but this excludes all of Highgate, even though we have a number of estates. Its 'composite reply' to a range of FOIs it had received did not cover my request, so I appealed the decision and asked for a review.
Eventually - at the end of October, Camden reconsidered and released a full set of Highgate Ward FRAs.
I've put these on a web page here for residents to download and read:
I hope these documents are useful to residents in my ward. A few are quite recent and many show no significant concerns - this is particularly true for the purpose-built estates with flats whose doors open onto the outside, such as the Whittington Estate and Dartmouth Park Hill in Highgate Newtown.
Estates with internal staircases forming the main escape route, such as Holly Lodge and Lissenden Gardens have been assessed with more problems, mainly issues such as front doors that aren't properly fire rated or sealed, and which do not have automatic door closers.
Some problems with emergency lighting and escape stairs that aren't properly marked on each step so that they are visible if there is smoke, are more worrying and need to be addressed by the council. On Lissenden Gardens, the placement of rubbish areas was also a significant risk identified by the inspectors.
On Holly Lodge, a recent resident association meeting was attended by senior council officers and the new Cabinet Member in charge of housing, Cllr Meric Apak. Residents there were clear that they wanted all secondary fire escapes maintained and repaired, rather than removed as the council had previously planned. I support them absolutely on this.
Most concerning is that the majority of these most recent inspections were carried out in 2012, and that many of these issues have not been addressed already, despite being in the top two categories for priority action - meaning that they should have been done within one year.
The Council's policy is for FRAs to be done every four years at most, and sooner if priority issues have been identified. I'm very worried that the regime of inspection seems to have been neglected so badly and wonder how long it would have been before our homes were inspected again if the Chalcots issues had not emerged when they did.
I'm sending links to the documents that have been released to all the people in Highgate who are signed up for my newsletters and will be writing to them as well. I'm here to help make sure the Council takes action on any outstanding measures to ensure the safety of residents.
For the Chalcots estate, I've gone back to the Council again now, as the folder of files the Council has sent does not include the older Chalcots assessments I had asked for, even though the review concluded they should be released as well.
At the council meeting in July I said full transparency was the only way for the Council to win back trust. I wrote to the UK Information Commissioner and she agreed and issued strong advice to all councils.
I’ll keep pressing until Camden takes proper action to keep residents safe.