Towers Threatened With Collapse

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TWO tower blocks on the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham are at risk of a ‘catastrophic collapse’.

After the horrific Grenfell fire, which left so many men, women and children dead, buildings up and down the country were checked for safety. Two residential blocks, which were completed in the early 1970s are among 11 buildings on the Tottenham estate that failed structural tests.

200 families are now to be ‘urgently moved’ out of the tower blocks for fear that they could collapse at any time. Tangmere House, a six-storey block, and Northholt, an 18-storey block, are the two towers worst affected.

The tests uncovered serious structural failings, which make the homes vulnerable to collapse in the event a gas pipe or gas canister explosion or if a vehicle strikes the base of the buildings. A report by the London Borough of Haringey states: ‘Neither Tangmere nor Northholt can remain occupied long-term as they are in their current structural state.

‘The presence of piped gas in Tangmere continues to pose a health and safety risk to residents. Tangmere failed structural tests, which means there is a risk of progressive collapse from an explosion caused by piped gas or from an explosion from a lower impact event such as a vehicle strike or bottled gas explosion.’

Some residents reacted with anger to the news as they faced the prospect of being thrown out of homes they have lived in for decades. One woman who has lived in the same flat in Tangmere for 38 years said: ‘It’s disgusting and it is very stressful. Ain’t it funny this has just come out after Grenfell?’

Meanwhile, Kensington and Chelsea Council was warned by the resident in whose flat the fire started about gaps in the window frames installed on Grenfell Tower before the fire, the public inquiry heard yesterday.

In the witness statement given by Behailu Kebede, in whose flat the fire started, he revealed that he had complained about his windows not long before the fire. As part of the 2012/16 refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, new windows were installed in every flat.

According to the report submitted to the inquiry by Professor Luke Bisby, an expert witness, gaps in these windows allowed the fire to spread from the kitchen where it started onto the cladding and then up the side of the building.

In Kebede’s statement, he said: ‘The double-glazed windows caused problems too, as they had not been correctly fitted. There were gaps in between the windows and frames. Air was entering my flat through these gaps. I made a direct complaint to the builders regarding this. The council sent in contractors, who, I believe, put sealant in the gaps. But this did not fully solve my problem.’

The chief executive of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea told survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster that the council had been behaving like ‘a property developer masquerading as a local authority’, MPs have been told.

Barry Quirk, who took over at the borough one week after the fire in June 2017, made the comment in a private meeting with Grenfell United, the survivors’ group, one of its leading members, Edward Daffarn, told the House of Commons housing select committee.

‘Think about that,’ Daffarn told the MPs. ‘They were property developers masquerading as a local authority. They failed to keep us safe because they had higher priorities – getting their hands on the land, this massive goldmine they had.’