The Socialist 3 July 2019 |
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Angry Barking residents protest outside sales office
Barking Riverside residents protest outside the estate sales office, 29.6.19, photo by Ian Pattison (Click to enlarge)
Pete Mason, chair, Barking Reach Residents Association and East London Socialist Party
On Saturday 29 June property sales offices at Barking Riverside, London - the site of the recent horrendous fire that consumed 20 flats in just a few minutes - were closed due to a well-attended residents' and supporters' protest.
The protest - covered by media outlets LBC and ITV London - was proposed by Samuel Garside House residents the week before.
We waited for a response to our demands for the removal of the flammable material, mainly wood, that decks the estate, as well as housing the displaced residents in decent accommodation, but heard nothing.
The managing agent and the builder also closed the normally supervised access to the partially burnt out flats for the whole weekend, preventing residents from getting urgent things like passports for travel.
Residents felt that this was a vindictive act and it further stoked huge anger at the landlords and builders responsible for this predicted and preventable fire.
The fire spread through untreated wood on decorative balconies which acted precisely like the cladding on the Grenfell Tower block. We want displaced residents, one of whom is a civil engineer, to be involved in the design of the new, non-flammable ones.
Conflict of interests
Landlords Barking Riverside Ltd (BRL)promised the appointment of a fire engineer and architect to review the cladding on the entire estate, and managing agents Residential Management Group (RMG) are carrying out high level fire safety inspections in Samuel Garside House and around the part of the estate they own. But RMG has appointed a company that is a "wholly owned subsidiary of RMG" - as the managing director himself informed the residents association!
Residents want both BRL and RMG to appoint a fire safety expert which we trust, who is prepared to speak out in criticism of the construction practices of the builders.
The denial of this, in the view of residents, is deeply suspicious, suggests an ongoing desire to cut corners, and many residents still fear that SGH is fundamentally unsafe.
Meanwhile a team of lawyers acting for the residents have demanded that the council carry out a thorough inspection of the structure and fire safety of the building.