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Southwark among boroughs with most ‘waking watches’ for fire-risk blocks

More buildings in Southwark need ‘waking watches’ because of fire safety concerns than in almost any other borough in London, new figures show.

The latest data from the London Fire Brigade (LFB) shows that Southwark has 71 buildings with trained staff patrolling to look for fires, behind only Tower Hamlets – far ahead with 162 – and Hackney, with 86. Greenwich also has 71 buildings with waking watches in place.

Neighbouring boroughs Lambeth and Lewisham are not far behind, with 66 and 57 blocks with waking watches respectively. Some 1053 buildings in total across London have the round-the-clock patrol system in place.

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The figures, published this week by Sadiq Khan’s office in response to a question by Labour London Assembly member Anne Clarke, are correct as of September 15 this year, and could have changed since then.

Waking watches can be extremely expensive and are another headache on top of the many other problems faced by leaseholders in buildings deemed a fire risk because of construction defects, such as unsafe cladding.

Southwark’s Labour London Assembly member Marina Ahmad described the situation facing leaseholders in unsafe buildings as “a scandal of unprecedented proportions”.

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Writing in a column last month, she added: “With the government and developers failing to put in the financial support needed to make these homes safe, leaseholders are also footing the eye-watering costs for remediation works, rising insurance premiums and EWS1 forms.” EWS1 forms determine whether there are dangerous materials in a building and leaseholders in blocks over eighteen metres need one to sell.

Camberwell’s Marie Curie House, in the Sceaux Gardens Estate, is among the buildings that needs a waking watch after fire safety defects were discovered late last year.

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The patrol in the ‘sister block’ to Lakanal House, where six people died in a devastating fire in 2009, will cost more than £500,000 and will last from November 2020 to June 2022.

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