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Residents evacuated as cladding on 60 tower blocks fails fire safety tests

By PA Reporters

Some 60 high-rise buildings in 25 local authorities across the country have now failed fire cladding safety tests after the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Government has said.

The number has risen from 34 tower blocks across 17 local authorities.

The announcement came after communities secretary Sajid Javid revealed all of the buildings that have so far submitted cladding samples have failed combustibility tests.

Cladding from one block of high-rise apartments in Belfast - Durham House - is being investigated by experts. External panels have been sent for tests to determine whether they are the same as those implicated in the horrific London blaze.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said Doncaster, Norwich, Stockton-on-Tees and Sunderland all had buildings that failed tests, while Manchester, Plymouth and Portsmouth have already been named.

Islington, Lambeth and Wandsworth joined Barnet, Brent, Camden and Hounslow on the growing list of London boroughs, while 11 other areas are yet to be named.

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said around 200 residents from 120 households were still refusing to leave their homes in four tower blocks evacuated in the Chalcots estate in north London.

She took the decision to clear 600 flats on Friday night after London Fire Brigade inspecting officers identified concerns over the combination of external cladding, fire doors, gas pipes and insulation.

Around 60 people stayed in nearby Swiss Cottage leisure centre on Saturday night, as 3,000 displaced residents faced weeks in temporary accommodation.

Ms Gould explained some residents have issues, including agoraphobia, and want to be sure they have got suitable accommodation before moving out of their flats.

She told BBC News: "I'm going back to the blocks to knock on doors and have those conversations.

"The last thing I want to do is force people out of their homes.

"The conversations I have been having with residents in these buildings is that they are happy to work with us," she added.

The council said it could take two to four weeks for the four blocks to be made safe.

Ms Gould said they have more hotel spaces and 100 flats of their own properties on Maiden Lane which they have just built becoming available for residents today.

"We hope to get many people into more secure accommodation as quickly as we can," she said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has backed the council's decision to evacuate the tower blocks.

"I think they've done the right thing. You've got to err on the side of caution. You can't play Russian roulette with people's safety," he told Sky News.

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