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Large Panel Crisis Leads To Bitter Spat Between Southwark & Haringey

Haringey's newly elected Momentum Council have recently learned that two of their Large Panel System residential blocks on the Broadwater Farm Estate have failed to meet the building regulations for resistance to disproportionate collapse.

Echoing the discoveries of the very same issues found to be affecting four blocks on the Ledbury Estate in Southwark last summer, Haringey are now faced with the prospect of deciding whether to strengthen and refurbish their Tangmere and Northolt blocks, or to demolish and rebuild them, though they have already made it clear that their preferred option is demolition, prior to any consultation taking place.

Haringey have also laid out the steps they plan to take over the coming months in their recent Cabinet report, which includes decanting the Tangmere block before October, at which point the gas supply will be removed from the block.

In a course of action quite different from the steps that Southwark have taken, Cllr Emina Ibrahim, Haringey's Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing stated that she felt that they had no option but to decant Tangmere over the next three months for 'safety reasons', although, come October, once gas is removed, the main risk to the block will be significantly reduced and therefore, Tangmere will be considerably safer than it's been for decades. Additional mitigating measures could potentially be introduced now, such as banning vehicles from the undercroft garages, and installing a new district heating system that doesn't rely on gas. However, Haringey remain firm on their position, refusing to consider some of the same safety measures that Southwark have taken, whilst stating repeatedly that residents safety must come first.

The implications of this being that, Southwark, having chosen not to decant immediately, but to install a new heating system and introduce mitigating measures to allow Ledbury residents time for a choice-based decant, are somehow putting residents at Ledbury at risk. 

What's unclear is whether Haringey, or indeed Southwark, have sought expert advice, guidance and clear instructions from the Building Research Establishment or the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Building Safety Programme Director on the steps they should be taking. It seems odd that the BRE or MHCLG would issue conflicting advice on how to deal with these Large Panel System blocks following discoveries that they both fail to meet the minimum pressure force of 2.5psi/17kPa, so currently, it would appear that individual decisions are being taken by the politicians themselves, with apparently no technical experts making clear which are the correct steps to be taking. An unsettling situation for the residents living on both estates.

At a Haringey Cabinet meeting held on Tuesday 26th June, Broadwater Farm TRA Secretary Jacob Secker pleaded with Haringey Councillors to consider following some of the steps that Southwark have taken, but was repeatedly shut down by the Council leader Cllr Joseph Ejiofor once the 3 minute deputation time limit had been reached.

Later on in the meeting, Haringey's Cllr Noah Tucker went on to comment that 'Southwark are intending to replace their [Ledbury] council blocks by regenerated private blocks.' Southwark Councillors swiftly rebutted this after viewing a clip of the comment on Twitter. Southwark then took the matter even further, demanding a public apology from Cllr Tucker, as highlighted in this article, with Southwark's Council Leader Cllr Peter John branding Cllr Tucker a liar and Southwark's Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr Stephanie Cryan asking Cllr Tucker to 'retract your comments before any more damage is caused.'

In the meantime, Haringey's Cllr Emina Ibrahim, in response to this article in The Times, tweeted about the individuals who have made allegations of social cleansing by the newly elected Momentum council as '[a] Hotch potch bunch of SWP, Greens, Maoists, anarchists and actually a cabinet member from previous administration and a resident who hates council’ despite having only publicly published the structural reports for the Broadwater Farm blocks a few days ago, and only after a petition was launched asking to see the evidence of structural faults.

As a distasteful game of political tennis between New Labour Southwark and Momentum Haringey ensues, residents of both the Ledbury Estate and Broadwater Farm still have no clear answers but are becoming increasingly upset and disappointed that both councils seem intent on childish point scoring, rather than focusing on the needs, rights and futures of their residents. 

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