NEARLY 500 students still remain living in a housing complex in west London while waiting for alternative accommodation despite it having been deemed a fire-trap and marked for immediate evacuation.
Last Monday, residents were told they must leave the Paragon complex in Brentford after faulty cavity barriers.
Cavity barriers are there to prevent flames spreading. Without working cavity barriers any fire would rapidly spread throughout the building. The building also is coated in cladding which although is not the same type as spread the Grenfell Tower fire, was still ‘concerning’.
Housing association Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) said it relocated 30% of the nearly 700 students living on-site.
Over the weekend, 207 students had been helped to move into alternative accommodation, NHG said. A total of 481 remain on site.
Laura Howes, 19, was placed in the building by the University of West London (UWL), where she is a student.
Howes said she was ‘absolutely terrified’ when a fire alarm went off at 04:30 BST on last Thursday.
‘I thought, “what if this is it?’” she said.
‘If this is a proper fire, knowing what we know, we might not stand a chance.’
No fire was discovered.
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.’
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.
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 last Monday’s announcement.
NHG said it was providing financial support to all residents and mental health support 24 hours a day.
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.’
- A new modular council development in Newhaven, East Sussex, is being hailed as a ‘game changer’ for social housing and a window on the future of residential schemes.
The entire development consists of 36 modules constructed within the Boutique Modern factory in Newhaven and craned into place.
The 13 one and two-bed apartments are equipped to the highest specification, in terms of standard and desirable features, sustainability credentials and fire safety standards that effectively future proof the development against all anticipated toughening of regulations post-Grenfell enquiry.
Families currently on Lewes District Council’s housing register start moving into their new homes next week.
- Every apartment has its own 2.1kWh solar PV installation and 2.7Kw battery to store electricity generated during the day for use at peak times. Power usage monitoring displays are also installed in each home and all residents will receive advice and guidance on how to interpret and use the information to further reduce energy use.
It is anticipated the mains energy use will be reduced by 70%, taking the properties ‘off-grid’ for up to three or four months of the year.
The modules are super insulated, meaning they are 40% more energy efficient than traditional homes.
Mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems are installed in each apartment. They filter and exchange the air to keep the environment low in humidity, saving on maintenance issues/costs and maintaining a healthy fresh air supply within each home.
Councillor William Meyer, Cabinet Member for Housing at Lewes District Council, said: ‘Palmerston House represents a complete and hugely exciting departure in 21st Century housing construction.
‘These wonderful new homes provide a design template that I am certain will be replicated all over the UK as decision makers discover what we have achieved in Newhaven.
‘There is no doubt that this is a game changer, not just in terms of raising the bar for sustainability and fire safety, but also in build quality and finish.
‘The apartments are stunning examples of what social housing professionals should be striving for.’
Despite being under 18m, Palmerston House has been built to meet the 18m fire regulations introduced following the Grenfell investigations.
Each apartment constitutes a one-hour fire compartment, and every habitable room has a MIST* fire suppression system installed.
- In the event of a heat detector being triggered a fine mist is produced to extinguish the source of fire, rather than the whole property being drenched.
The nature of the water dispersal means repairs and reinstatement required are less extensive.
The system also limits damage to other homes.
AOV – Automatic Opening Vents. In the event of a fire every walkway window and the roof vent in the stair core will automatically open, allowing smoke to clear.
A communal fire alarm system is integrated with the fire brigade or monitoring company. It detects any fault and activates within seconds.
Councillor James MacCleary, Leader of Lewes District Council and ward councillor for Newhaven South, said: ‘When the Co-Operative Alliance took over the council last year we put building homes and reducing carbon output at the heart of our agenda. Palmerston House achieves both of those things.
‘On top of that it is a truly cutting edge building that just adds to the sense that Newhaven is a town where a lot is happening. It’s a great addition to our town and, most importantly, represents a positive future for local families who can now look forward to spending Christmas together in their new home.’
Other headline specifications at Palmerston House include:
- Back up dual main cold-water tank and pump system in case of pressure drop out on the main network and increased usage from the dwellings.
- It is a networked system so in the event of pump failure a text or phone alert is sent out to the maintenance team.
- Storm water attenuation tank installed to slow and reduce rainwater impact on the local network.
- Audio communal door entry system and key fobs for residents.
- We are also installing a station within the plant room for the maintenance team to produce new fobs and drop fobs off the system.
- Safety system on the roof with specialist harness and lanyards to allow safe working for maintenance teams.
- All homes have satellite and terrestrial TV capabilities and superfast fibre pre-installed.
l Witnesses from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) gave evidence for a second week, which began with a shocking revelation about withheld and destroyed evidence.
‘Well, they were destroyed, you binned them’ … Last week’s evidence session started with a bombshell announcement. It emerged that Peter Maddison, director of assets at KCTMO, had disclosed that there was a stash of eight day books and five diaries running to 300 pages in length.
They covered the period from January 2013 to May 2017 and contained – in the words of lead counsel Richard Millett – material of ‘the utmost relevance’ to the inquiry’s work.
This shocking discovery raised a very difficult question for Maddison and KCTMO’s solicitors Kennedy’s: ‘Why had he not handed them over sooner?’
But before this news had time to sink in, it was superseded by an even bigger revelation when last Monday morning’s witness, Claire Williams, project manager for the refurbishment, took the stand. She was immediately asked whether she had disclosed all her diaries.
‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘I left the TMO in May 2018 and I binned all of them but the last one.’
‘You binned them, even though you knew by that time that there was already on-foot a public inquiry?’ asked an incredulous inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick.
‘I believe I looked at them and they were notes,’ she said. ‘Everything that was in there I would have thought is actually documented elsewhere.’
Pressed further, she was unable to say with certainty whether this took place before or after the police attended to clear her desk, or whether or not she had been advised to retain all relevant evidence.
‘Have you ever informed the Metropolitan Police that you had destroyed documents which were relevant to their investigation?’ asked Millett.
‘No, I didn’t,’ she replied. ‘Because it’s not occurred to me. Today’s the first time that I’ve ever really had a conversation about this.’
‘They weren’t destroyed, I didn’t rip pages out of them,’ she added. ‘So it wasn’t a conscious “I’m hiding anything” decision – it was: I am clearing my desk.’
‘Well, they were destroyed – you binned them,’ said Millett.
‘I put them in the bin, yes,’ she replied.
A few hours later, the police issued a statement saying that it would ‘seek to establish the facts and assess whether a criminal offence may have been committed’.