HUNDREDS of Peckham, southeast London, tenants living in tower blocks on the Southwark Council’s Ledbury Estate are being moved out after safety checks carried out following the Grenfell Tower fire found the buildings had been at risk of collapse for decades.
It has been assessed that the four 13-storey blocks were at risk of collapse in the event of a gas explosion in one of the flats. The Ledbury blocks were constructed between 1968 and 1970 using a method called large panel system, in which giant concrete sections were bolted together on site. The same technique was used at Ronan Point, a tower block in east London which partly collapsed in 1968 following a gas explosion.
Labour-run Southwark Council has written to residents of the 242 council flats telling them they will have to ‘temporarily decant the blocks over the coming weeks and months’ for emergency works. On instruction from the council, gas supplies have been cut off, leaving most residents without cooking facilities, hot water and heating.
Southwark has told residents that council workers will distribute electric hotplates and that they can take showers at a local leisure centre. The Peckham estate’s crisis has sparked new safety fears for residents living in high-rise flats, on top of those since the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.
The surveyor and fire safety expert who first identified the problem at the Ledbury estate, Arnold Tarling, has warned it was likely there would be many other blocks around the country with similar problems. An investigation said buildings constructed using the same method as Ronan Point must be reinforced, or else have no gas supply.
Southwark Council, which took over the Ledbury tower blocks from the former Greater London Council, said it believed they had been strengthened. After the Grenfell Tower fire, worried Ledbury residents urged action over big cracks in walls between flats on the estate, which they feared could allow a fire to spread through their block.
They asked Tarling to check the cracks, but while on the estate he raised other concerns about the gas supply, warning that the structure was unsafe. He complained that Southwark Council ‘did not listen to me’. Meanwhile, Southwark Council wrote to residents saying its belief that the buildings had been reinforced ‘may not be correct’ that the gas supply was being turned off and residents would be moved out.
• Charity Commission figures show that less than 15% of the £18.9m raised has been given to people who lost their homes and loved ones in the Grenfell fire. The millions of pounds were donated by the public two months ago. Yvette Williams, of the Justice 4 Grenfell group, said: ‘The survivors are raising it more and more: where’s the money, who’s distributing it, why aren’t they distributing it, how have they been chosen to distribute it, what’s the criteria for distribution, and how are you communicating with the people who should be receiving that money?
‘Information isn’t transparent. They have to beg for information and it’s still not clear the background of it, or how they’re going forward with it.’