Ledbury Towers evacuated after gas safety tests in London

August 11th, 20176:32 pm @

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Hundreds of residents will be evacuated from their high-rise flats after an investigation found their homes may not be safe following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The gas supply to 242 flats in Ledbury Towers in south London was cut off with immediate effect on Thursday.

Danielle Giblin, 33, said her mother, who has lived in Bromyard House for almost 40 years, broke down in tears after being told she must leave.

Salon owner Ms Giblin told the Press Association: ‘My parents have just retired, paid rent all these years, worked their whole lives and not got a home now.

The gas supply to 242 flats in Ledbury Towers in south London was cut off today

The gas supply to 242 flats in Ledbury Towers in south London was cut off today

‘I’ve lived here all my life.

‘But I’m much more concerned about their safety. They’re in shock.’

Southwark Council said while it appreciates the move is ‘inconvenient’ to those living in four of the blocks, it is ‘not willing to take any risks’.

Concerns over cracks in the buildings were raised by residents after the shocking incident in west London in June.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire (pictured), an investigation was carried out in south London which suggested high-rise blocks might not be safe 

Following the Grenfell Tower fire (pictured), an investigation was carried out in south London which suggested high-rise blocks might not be safe 

Structural engineers Arup were instructed to investigate their cause, the authority said.

It was during Arup’s investigation that an historic issue was also raised surrounding the gas supply to the four blocks – which was installed when they were built in 1968 to 1970.

Residents said they have now been instructed to move out of the Peterchurch, Bromyard, Skenfirth and Sarnsfield blocks within ‘the next few weeks’, to temporary accommodation, and have been told they can shower at a nearby leisure centre.

A Ledbury Estate resident leaves the building, where their gas supplies switched off

A Ledbury Estate resident leaves the building, where their gas supplies switched off

Hannan Majid, who lives on the 12th floor of Bromyard, said the building was riddled with fissures ‘large enough to drop books through’.

The documentary filmmaker, who has two young daughters, said: ‘There’s draughts and if someone’s smoking it comes right through.

‘Flames and smoke would come through them, what does that mean for ‘compartmentalisation’ if the building catches fire?

Gas engineers at work outside Ledbury Towers, south London, where residents facing evacuation from high-rise London flats have said safety concerns were ignored for decades

Gas engineers at work outside Ledbury Towers, south London, where residents facing evacuation from high-rise London flats have said safety concerns were ‘ignored for decades’

‘The council said they are normal but this is not normal. People have been complaining and ignored about this for decades.’

A letter sent to residents states that in 1968 the similarly constructed Ronan Point in Newham partially collapsed after a gas explosion – prompting blocks around the UK to be made safe to carry a supply of the fuel.

Stephanie Cryan, deputy leader and cabinet member for housing at Southwark Council, said records suggest the four blocks were strengthened following the Ronan Point incident.

She said: ‘Arup’s structural investigations suggest this strengthening may not have occurred, and we have therefore turned off the gas, until further investigations can be done.

‘We are doing all we can to provide residents with alternatives while the gas is turned off, and are working up a plan to permanently replace the gas with electric ovens, boilers etc as part of the wider works, should that be necessary.

‘We have also written to the Department of Communities and Local Government to inform them of this issue, as it may well have implications for other blocks around the country that were constructed in this way.’

The letter sent to residents of the blocks states the council had hoped to allow them to remain in their homes while the work to fix the cracks was carried out.

It added: ‘But this new information means we are now planning to temporarily decant the blocks over the coming weeks and months.’

The gas supply to 242 flats in Ledbury Towers in south London (pictured) was cut off with immediate effect on Thursday

The gas supply to 242 flats in Ledbury Towers in south London (pictured) was cut off with immediate effect on Thursday

The authority added there are no plans to evacuate residents immediately or over the coming week, but said that if the process to sort alternative power for the buildings is taking too long they may need to offer alternative accommodation.

In the short term Southwark Council said it is immediately providing temporary hotplates to residents so they can prepare meals, and are looking to install single electric water heaters in every flat.

The authority also said that those living in the block can access free shower facilities at any of Southwark’s leisure centres. 

Nicola Giblin, who lives on the first floor and is the twin sister of Danielle, said: ‘It’s sad it’s taken something like Grenfell for this to be looked at.

‘There’s cracks in all the ceilings and walls, it’s a massive job, I don’t see how they’re going to do it.

‘You hear the block creak and think it’s going to collapse, it’s not just fire we’re worried about.’ 

It comes as Grenfell campaigners say donations are not reaching survivors fast enough as it was revealed less than 15 per cent of the £18.9 million raised in the wake of the disaster has been distributed.

Data released by the Charity Commission shows £7.25million has been handed to distributing organisations on the ground.

But only £2.8million has reached survivors, almost two months after the blaze ripped through the 24-storey tower block.  

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