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Wood cladding remains as Barking Riverside fire residents protest against returning to flats

PUBLISHED: 17:35 18 July 2019 | UPDATED: 18:07 18 July 2019

Residents have protested after some of the flats near the block devastated by a fire on June 9 were deemed 'habitable'. Picture: Luke Acton.

Residents have protested after some of the flats near the block devastated by a fire on June 9 were deemed 'habitable'. Picture: Luke Acton.

Archant

Barking Riverside residents who were displaced by a fire that destroyed 20 flats have protested against being asked to move back into the building.

The protesters are concerned about the cladding that still remains on the building. Picture: Luke Acton.The protesters are concerned about the cladding that still remains on the building. Picture: Luke Acton.

Insurers will no longer cover alternative accommodation - often hotels - for some of those who had to move out after the June 9 blaze, according to a letter from the building's managers Residential Management Group (RMG).

People who live in Samuel Garside House, De Pass Gardens, received the letters on July 16 from RMG telling them they could return home and their accommodation would no longer be paid for.

Not all residents have received the offer - for some their homes are just too damaged.

Insurers will cover the accommodation until July 27, according to Homeground, representative for the owners of the building.

It added it expects all the homes to be 'habitable' by then, but that "changes in circumstance" would be discussed with insurers.

A spokesman said: "By habitable, we mean that they have been assessed as safe for occupation, that essential services are in place and any fire-related damage has been repaired."

He added that four people want to move in as early as Monday. Inspections of 23 empty flats will take place this week to allow residents to agree if more work needs to be done.

Michaela Gheorghe, 39, was one of the protestors at the town hall. "The main concern is still fire safety," she said.

Samuel Garside House covered in scaffolding. Picture: Luke Acton.Samuel Garside House covered in scaffolding. Picture: Luke Acton.

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To get the building safe again, contractor Bellway has removed all applicable timber from the front of the building.

Sections of the wood have been sawn off, leaving gaps between the floors, but a substantial amount is still on the building.

RMG said that the remaining wood is going to be sprayed with fire retardant, but a date for that work is yet to be set.

While some of the wood has been removed from the block, much of the cladding remains. Picture: Luke Acton.While some of the wood has been removed from the block, much of the cladding remains. Picture: Luke Acton.

A spokesman for Bellway said the company will work closely with residents and other stakeholders to ensure that work is completed "in a timely fashion".

It's understood it could take eight to 10 weeks.

While the actions of the council have largely been praised by the residents, they want the authority to step in the stop the companies from moving them back.

Ms Gheorghe added: "They need to step in for us.

"They need to help us not to go back until it is safe."

A spokesman for Barking and Dagenham Council said it shared the protesters' frustration and was doing everything in its "very limited powers" to ensure the companies take the situation seriously.

The spokesman added: "We have gone to every length possible to make the aftermath of the fire more bearable for residents - finding suitable temporary accommodation while their homes were being repaired, at a time when we have a shortage of housing for our own tenants.

"We also helped persuade the insurers to cover these costs, so families were not stuck in hotel rooms for weeks."

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