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Safety complaints ‘ignored for decades’ at tower blocks to be evacuated

Investigations revealed 224 homes at four blocks in south London may be unsafe.

Residents facing evacuation from high-rise London flats have said safety concerns were “ignored for decades”.

Investigations revealed 224 homes at four blocks in south London may be unsafe with the gas supply to Ledbury Towers, in Peckham, cut off 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 has to leave.

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Gas engineers at work outside Ledbury Towers (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

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.

“I’ve lived here all my life. But I’m much more concerned about their safety. They’re in shock.”

Southwark Council said it knows the move is “inconvenient” to those living in the Peterchurch, Bromyard, Skenfirth and Sarnsfield blocks, but it is “not willing to take any risks”.

Residents said they were instructed to move out within “the next few weeks”, to temporary accommodation, and have been told they can shower at a nearby leisure centre.

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General view of Ledbury Towers (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

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?

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

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Gas engineers at work outside Ledbury Towers (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and concerns over cracks in the buildings, structural engineers Arup were instructed to investigate their cause, Southwark Council said.

During Arup’s investigation 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.

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.”

Southwark Council said it is providing temporary hotplates so people can cook meals, and are looking to install single electric water heaters in every flat.

A letter announcing the decision says 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 all four blocks were strengthened following the Ronan Point episode.

But “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”, she said.

Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham, said work was needed to discover why long-standing structural issues “remained unacted on for so long”.

Mrs Harman said: “There will need to be an understanding as to why this didn’t emerge beforehand with the clarity that it has now.

“We must have a commitment from government that the council are going to get the cash they need.”

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