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Barking fire: Some social tenants told they can move back despite safety concerns

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 August 2019

A fire tore up the side of Samuel Garside House on June 9. Picture: Luke Acton.

A fire tore up the side of Samuel Garside House on June 9. Picture: Luke Acton.

Luke Acton

Social tenants at Samuel Garside House who were forced out by fire have been told to return to their homes - despite some residents' safety fears after money paying for alternative housing was stopped.

Some people housed by Southern Housing Group were told they could move back into their homes in Barking on August 12, according to a lawyer representing around 25 of the residents and a tenant affected by the decision. The issue was first reported by The Guardian on August 13.

Shaun Murphy, senior partner at the law firm Edwards Duthies Shamash, said residents who didn't want to move back mostly don't have the means to pay for other places to stay.

He added: "The wooden cladding that burst into flames is still a risk and that risk will continue until it's been sprayed with fire retardant."

The tenants' situation is in contrast to leaseholders, who have been given until September in their alternative accommodation after a series of protests.

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Owners occupied blocks that were worst affected by the fire, while social tenants live in neighbouring parts of the building, which were not as badly damaged or not damaged at all.

A spokesman for Southern Housing Group said: "Southern Housing Group has worked with all parties involved to ensure that the people affected could return to their homes and normality as soon as possible," he said. "After an event like this, we will always support residents, on an individual basis, according to their needs and personal circumstance. He said it was aware of safety concerns, but there is no suggestion from the fire brigade or council that it is unsafe to return home.

The housing association also said the decision to move residents back in was based on the level of damage to their homes.

Private properties that were worst affected by the fire are being assessed by the council. The assessment will not look at the social homes in Samuel Garside house, which were less affected by the incident.

It will look at 29 hazards, including fire safety and structural collapse.

A council spokeswoman said: "We appreciate some residents are concerned about returning home and despite our limited powers to intervene as this is not a council block, they have asked if we can assess the block's safety."

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