Four tower blocks by Old Kent Road are on standby and may need to be evacuated, due to long-standing fire safety risks discovered in dozens of flats that have cracks in their walls.
The thirteen-storey blocks of the Ledbury Estate have, since last week, been identified as dangerous by London Fire Brigade inspectors, due to large cracks in the rooms of many residents’ flats.
Since Monday, structural surveys have also been undertaken into the blocks by construction company ARUP. The chair of the Ledbury Estate tenants and residents association, Jeanette Mason, has said the results of the surveys are expected “later this week”.
The inspections by the Brigade were prompted following numerous concerns raised about the cracks by one resident in their flat, who wished not to be identified.
Another resident told the News that cracks had been present in their flat “since I moved in about 30 odd years ago”.
Word has spread throughout the blocks that the cracks in the walls will “compromise” the “compartmentation” fire-safety features of the blocks, as smoke and oxygen will leak into different rooms and between flats.
Fire safety wardens have been deployed on every second floor of the four towers since June 30, and will remain there 24/7 as a “temporary measure”.
They have been instructed to assist with evacuating the blocks in the event of a fire. This is instead of the Fire Brigade’s usual advice to residents – to stay inside their flats during a fire – and allow compartmentation of the flats to contain a blaze while fire officers work on them.
The advice to stay inside homes was given to residents during the Lakanal House fire of 2009 and the Grenfell fire, and is common place in tall buildings with compartmentation features.
The estate’s Ledbury Hall has also been taken over by the council and fire safety wardens.
Residents have told the News that the Red Cross has provided blankets, food and water which are being stored in the hall in case of an evacuation.
A council spokesperson said: “There have been reports of cracks over the years on the Ledbury Estate. We have always instructed our experts to take a view on them and carry out repairs as required – and most recently, a detailed survey by ARUP has been commissioned and is currently on site. We continually review our fire risk assessments for all our homes.
“We take fire safety extremely seriously and clearly, since the tragic fire at Grenfell, we have been reviewing everything in our high rise dwellings, and looking afresh at our fire safety strategy, including commissioning an independent fire safety review. At Ledbury Towers we have put in place some immediate fire safety measures, in conjunction with London Fire Brigade, such as new fire wardens available 24hours a day, renewed inspections and immediate works if required. Residents can be reassured that we are confident they are safe to remain in their homes.”