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From The Socialist newspaper, 26 June 2019

Angry Barking fire victims demand action from landlords and authorities

London firefighters putting out the fire on Barking Riverside estate, 9.6.19, photo Pete Mason

London firefighters putting out the fire on Barking Riverside estate, 9.6.19, photo Pete Mason   (Click to enlarge)

Pete Mason, chair, Barking Reach Residents' Association, and East London Socialist Party

A fire risk assessment report in January this year of Samuel Garside House in Barking, east London, identified inflammable wooden balconies.

The report recommended that corrective work be carried out within a month but the landlords and managing agents failed to act.

Five months later on 9 June - coinciding with the two-year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower inferno - the worst happened when a block of flats went up in flames. Fortunately no one died but 79 households were displaced

Around 30 flats were destroyed, either partially or completely, in a fire that spread from flat to flat in about seven minutes.

Only now are the balconies at other flats on the estate being stripped away by the original builders, Bellway.

Our association is still not being sufficiently informed of what is going on, and at a meeting, mostly of the displaced residents, we voted unanimously to hold protests if we are not satisfied with the response to our demands by the end of this week.

Accommodation

The most important demand is that residents are given proper accommodation while the renovation works are carried out to restore the flats.

Each day displaced residents are being left until the very last moment to find out where they are staying.

This is temporary hotel accommodation without facilities for babies, washing clothes and so forth. One resident reported being on the phone for 90 minutes with those put in charge of this to fix up a night's accommodation.

The second demand is the removal of the flammable cladding from the rest of the estate.

On 13 June, 200 residents crammed into a meeting called by the Residents' Association, which was attended by representatives from the government, council, landlords, managing agents and builders.

Residents voted unanimously that they believe that all those representatives were negligent. Compensation for the distress has still not been offered.

We agreed that Adriatic, the landlord, has forfeited the right to own the block due to this alleged negligence.

The residents want to be involved in the restoration process, such as the rebuilding of the balconies - one of the displaced resident's is a qualified architect.

They identified the need for fire doors in the ground floor car park, which was confirmed by a fire expert who attended a further residents' association meeting.

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