‘Don’t stay put’: Fire safety advice changed in sixty five Southwark buildings

Katherine Johnston (23 June, 2021)

'This is a never ending nightmare'

5449Fire breaks out at Camberwell's Lakanal House in 2009

‘Stay put’ advice has now been suspended in 65 unsafe buildings in Southwark, according to new figures from Sadiq Khan’s office.

As of May this year there are 870 buildings across London with waking watches and a simultaneous evacuation strategy due to fire safety defects and unsafe cladding.

Southwark’s new assembly member, Marina Ahmad, described life for their residents as ‘purgatory’ and has urged the government to pay for remediation costs quickly and claw it back from developers.

Earlier this month London Fire Brigade Commissioner Andy Roe told the London Assembly’s plenary meeting that there were around 62,000 properties in London posing fire risks, 8,000 of which are residential high-rises.

Most buildings over eleven metres have historically had ‘stay put’ advice in the event of a fire as their design and materials are meant to contain the blaze within individual flats or other small areas.

Residents in both Grenfell and Lakanal were told to ‘stay put’ – only for the fires to rapidly spread across the buildings.

Many blocks that were previously believed to contain fires now have updated fire safety advice which requires a ‘simultaneous evacuation’ – all residents leaving as soon as possible.

Waking watches, which often come at a huge financial cost, involve marshals patrolling the building 24/7.

Marina Ahmad said the figures were a stark reminder of the ‘never-ending nightmare’ for residents caught up in the cladding scandal.

“For people in Southwark who are stuck in unsafe buildings, this is a never ending nightmare.

Newly elected Assembly Member Marina Ahmad

“We’re now four years on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy yet this purgatory continues.

“Government support has been totally inadequate and too slow to arrive, meaning leaseholders are still footing the bill for remediation works, spiralling insurance premiums and costly waking watches.

“Those living this nightmare are at the mercy of the government and developers who now need to show willingness to stump up the costs of remediation work.

“We don’t expect the government to be left out of pocket, we expect them to claw this money back from developers, but they’re at the very least in a position to do that – ordinary residents in Southwark are not.”

The government set up a £5.1 billion building safety fund to cover the cost of cladding removal, widely considered far short of the true scale of costs across the county. Only buildings over eighteen metres in height have been eligible to apply.

Work was originally earmarked to be completed by the end of September this year – a deadline looking increasingly unlikely.

READ MORE: No guarantees for Marie Curie residents forced to move out over fire safety flaws

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