On 12th July 2017, a group of residents from the Ledbury Estate, along with resident members of the Tenant & Residents Association and a representative from the Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations took a deputation to Southwark Council Assembly, with the full panel of 64 Southwark Councillors in attendance.
The full deputation statement is below. Following this the local Councillors for the Livesey Ward; Cllr. Richard Livingstone and Cllr. Michael Situ submitted an Emergency motion which was unanimously passed.
Good evening Councillors and thank you for accepting our deputation.
In attendance are Myself; Danielle Gregory, Sue Slaughter, Jeanette Mason, Shelene Byer and Cris Claridge representing the four, 13-storey towers on the Ledbury Estate in Peckham.
We would like to begin by passing our condolences to the victims of the Grenfell fire. Whilst our deputation is inevitably linked to concerns raised across London following that tragedy, we want to open by stating that the contents have been raised over many years.
On the 6th May, a Southwark Council Senior Building Surveyor; responding to reports from myself regarding the significant widening of interior cracks; attended, assessed, and attributed it to ‘natural movement of the building.’
On the 26th June, a Community Fire Safety meeting was held at the Old Kent Road Fire Station, with Councillor Cryan and Gerri Scott in attendance. I raised concerns regarding my families’ safety and compartmentation being compromised by these cracks. I was assured it would be investigated.
Following the meeting, I sent images of the cracks to a Technical Advisor for London Fire Brigade, his reply stated: [quote] ‘the openings as they appear on the photographs will allow the products of combustion, smoke, fire and gases to enter through the walls and ceilings and access other areas of the building.’ [end quote]
Sharing this evidence with Councillor Cryan and Gerri Scott resulted in my family being prioritised for re-housing. The surveyor from the 6th May attended to re-assess on the 29th June with an independent structural engineer and a Fire Safety Officer. It was concluded that the cracks presented a serious risk and they were provisionally sealed with temporary materials. I insisted that the team assess neighbouring flats. Subsequently, the severity of previously reported cracks of a similar magnitude or worse, were finally acknowledged across all four towers as a significant risk.
Southwark Council will be aware of multiple reports over the past two decades from residents regarding cracks. Additionally; leaks, permeation of rainwater, mould, damp and partial ceiling collapses, speak for themselves in regards to the lack of maintenance to date. It’s hard to conceive that Southwark; have not yet recognised the individual complaints as a collective issue, given the repeat reports, arbitrations and a pending court case.
What’s more alarming, is that Southwark Council’s advisors were aware of the recommendations following the Ronan Point Inquiry in 1968 for any similar buildings, such as the Ledbury Towers, and a decision was made not to undertake the recommended structural strengthening works. The decision to supply gas to the towers also needs to be called into question, knowing the risk of progressive collapse, and indeed, the independent structural report from the 29th of June quotes ‘great concerns’ on these issues. We would like to reiterate the request made for an independent controlled test of the wind loading capabilities of the towers to be undertaken as a matter of urgency.
And on behalf of the residents, we would like to formally request that Southwark Council would make commitments, in writing, on the following matters:
1) That Southwark will explicitly confirm or deny that compartmentation was found to have been compromised on the 29th June, and that they will undertake a full investigation into the Fire Risk Assessment process and why it is failing to identify dangerous buildings, as happened on the Ledbury estate, with full transparency on who is accountable when Fire Risk Assessment recommendations are not implemented.
2) Having failed to adequately maintain the towers, that they are now fully committed to investing in a major repairs programme to bring them up to a safe standard, additionally, restoring decorative order to all flats upon completion.
3) That they will immediately undertake measures to permanently remedy all structural deficiencies and fire safety issues including compartmentation, heeding the advice of independent experts.
4) That the leaseholders wont be held accountable for any works to bring the towers up to standard via Section 20 Notices or other billing.
5) That any residents that are required to, or wish to move, during any investigations, major works or future regeneration, will be provided similar, private accommodation, within the local vicinity of the borough, excluding the use of Bed & Breakfast hotels or hostels, and that every resident, will have the guaranteed right to return, on the same tenancy basis and rent rate.
6) That despite the Old Kent Road regeneration, the land covering the Ledbury estate, will continue to remain exclusively for council housing.
7) That Southwark Council will resolve to reassess their entire repairs strategy, so that multiple reports of a similar nature, in one area, are escalated immediately, and that repairs are not signed off until the resident is satisfied.
8) That whilst the matter is ongoing; Southwark Council will appoint a Resident Liaison Officer, and Councillor Cryan and Gerri Scott will agree to meet fortnightly with residents of the Ledbury estate to ensure effective communication, and residents will also be entitled to regular meetings with fire safety officers and other such professionals, to address concerns on finer aspects of safety.
9) That Southwark Council; to maintain transparency, will ensure that any requested documents, or other such material, pertaining to the estate, and in the interest of residents, will be made readily available without undue delay.
Thank you for considering our deputation. We are looking forward to working with Southwark Council to rectify the issues raised.
On behalf of the residents of the Ledbury Estate in Southwark and the Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations.
Danielle Gregory, Jeanette Mason, Susan Slaughter, Shelene Byer & Cris Claridge.