Barking fire: Residents raise concerns about fire assessments as they face having to move back into Samuel Garside House
PUBLISHED: 12:55 26 July 2019
Residents face having to return to homes they believe are unsafe in fire-stricken Samuel Garside House in Barking.
They have raised problems they have with the fire safety and structural reports into the building as insurers say they will stop paying for alternate accommodation on Saturday, July 27.
Not all residents have been given the deadline - it's thought those in the block directly affected by the fire will still have their accommodation paid for.
But many in block D, which is next to where the blaze took hold, face having to go home.
The fire risk assessments were conducted after the fire as part of an effort to reassure the residents that the building is safe to return to.
But those assessments did not include block D.
One of the assessments after the fire didn't even look at a representative sample of the flats in those blocks.
The type 1 assessment - one the most basic kinds - was based on inspections of only two of the second floor flats. Another, more thorough assessment, (known as type 4) is considered representative, but again only covers blocks A and B.
There are also concerns about the independence of the assessments.
The company that undertook the reports, Osterna, shares a director with RMG, the managing agent of Samuel Garside House.
A spokesman for HomeGround, who represents the building's owner, said Osterna is a third party specialist risk assessor and its work was reviewed by the landlord's specialist independent fire safety consultant.
He added: "There is absolutely no basis to question either the independence or integrity of these actions."
The people who will be living in Samuel Garside House want the assessments to extend to the whole building and the construction site outside their doors.
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Second assessments of the homes are under way.
Yasir Imran has a home in block D and is currently living in a flat in Stratford - paid for by the building's insurance.
He's now worried he will have to move back into the building and says the dust and noise from the construction work also means he won't be able to open the balcony door - the only source of outside ventilation.
He wants fire assessments and assessments of his home to be done by an independent contractor that the residents feel they can trust. That feeling is shared by other residents the Post spoke to.
"We didn't buy these flats to be like a cage inside," Mr Imran added.
"We want to live the way we used to the live the day before the fire."
The borough's politicians have lobbied government to try to get more leverage to fix these issues.
Both Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge and council leader Darren Rodwell have sent letters to then-housing secretary James Brokenshire.
Dame Margaret told residents she'd met with Mr Brokenshire, but that he said he had limited influence over the private sector and people who are private leaseholders.
In the wake of Boris Johnson's election as the new prime minister, Mr Brokenshire has been replaced by Robert Jenrick as the secretary for housing.
A spokesman for HomeGround said: "In the immediate aftermath of the fire, we committed significant resource to commission extra safety measures for affected buildings and have been working closely with developers Bellway to progress repair works so that residents can safely return to their homes as soon as possible.
"A fresh and independent type 4 fire risk assessment has been carried out on the building and published for residents and an independent structural safety assessment carried out by an independent specialist engaged by Bellway following the fire and sent to affected residents. Finally, an independent surveyor engaged by HomeGround to oversee repair works by Bellway is visiting each flat with residents due to return to make sure they are happy with repairs.
"We are monitoring the situation with the insurers on behalf of all displaced or leaseholders, none of whom will be forced back into an uninhabitable or unsafe flat by the landlord."
As the complex process between the numerous public and private organisations continues, the residents are still facing losing their paid-for accommodation this Saturday.
While this deadline has been extended three times previously (by less than a week last time), it is uncertain whether this will happen again.