Minutes of the Residents Association meeting 13 June 2019

Report of an emergency meeting on Thursday 13th June 2019 at 7:30pm, Rivergate Centre,
called by Barking Reach Residents Association following a fire at Samuel Garside House (SGH) on DePass Gardens on Sunday 9th June, 2019

Approx 200 members

  • Pete Mason, chair of Barking Reach Residents Association (BRRA)
  • Venilia Amorim, treasurer of Barking Reach Residents Association (BRRA)

Panel Guests:

  • Camilla Sheldon, Office of James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing
  • Alex Selsy, regional manager for London at Pinnacle Places
  • Matt Carpen, managing director at Barking Riverside Limited
  • Ian Gorst, London and South East regional chairman at Bellway Homes
  • Eyvind Andresen, head of legal and portfolio services at Homeground
  • Hugh McGeever, managing director at Residential Management Group (RMG)
  • Tony Hughes, regional director at Southern Housing was invited but not present

In Audience:

  • Councillor Bill Turner, London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (LBBD)
  • Councillor Cameron Geddes, London Borough of Barking & Dagenham
  • PC Gary Jones, Thames Neighbourhood Policing Team
  • Simon Garrett, Managing Director, Residential, Mace Ltd
    Secretary to Margaret Hodge MP
    Arnold Tarling, FRICS Surveyor
    Shaun Murphy, Solicitor
    Nuno Amorim, secretary of Barking Reach Residents Association (BRRA) from 10pm

Meeting started 7.30pm

The meeting started with the Chair of Barking Reach Residents Association (BRRA), Pete Mason outlining that the reason for the emergency meeting was the fire on Samuel Garside House (SGH) on DePass Gardens on Sunday 9th June 2019.

A one minute silence for victims of the Grenfell fire was observed. Then the Chair outlined three resolutions formulated by residents’ requests and concerns demonstrated at a campaign meeting on Tuesday 11th June 2019, that BRRA fully supports and will campaign for. These concern

  1. Displaced Samuel Garside House Residents.
  2. Making the Barking Riverside Estate Fire State
  3. Proposal for Barking Reach Residents Association’s own resident-led housing inquiry.

The Chair introduced the guest panel and then read out (or just referred?) a letter sent out to all residents of Barking Riverside by Matt Carpen of Barking Riverside Limited The letter states that neither BARKING RIVERSIDE LIMITED nor London Borough of Barking & Dagenham have legal responsibility for, nor control over the Samuel Garside House
Barking Reach Residents Association doesn’t necessarily accept this because the council has given planning permission for the building, and the same may apply to Barking Riverside Limited’s responsibility.

The Chair highlighted that in the letter, the builders, Bellway Homes, the owners Adriatic (represented by Homeground) and the managing agent Residential Management Group of Samuel Garside House and Ernest Websdale House (a building on the estate similar in structure to Samuel Garside House), have said that they will:

  1. Undertake works to safely rebuild the damaged homes as soon as possible
  2. Ensure that residents whose homes were significantly damaged by the fire have a place to stay at no expense to them
  3. Begin the removal of all external timber from Samuel Garside House and Ernest Websdale House immediately

The owner Adriatic says that it will they will also ensure that original builders take immediate action to review the safety of all homes in Barking Riverside

Discussion of the letter from Matt Carbon from Barking Riverside Limited:
Comments:
Even if flats will be rebuilt, nobody want to go back. So that is not necessarily an acceptable solution.
It is important to find out what they mean by ‘place to stay’.
It was noted that alarm was on silent during the fire.

Three additional problems which letter does not address are also part of the resolution:
1) Negligence: The letter is silent on the failings accrued in the past? It is important to find out who is responsible for the accident.
2) There is no acknowledgment of the legal responsibilities of the party involved
3) Compensation: The is no offer of compensation either in relation to the loss of homes but also stress caused by this accident

Moving to discussions of the first resolution:
Concerns over safety of wooden constructed balconies despite previous concerns from residents led to a demand for relocation of exposed residents. It is not right to move them back to old apartments due to emotional stress. The right option will be offering resident a like for like exchanges of flats across the estate and a full compensation.

Also residents have a legal right for full compensation for the value of their property and for the distress caused

Residents stressed the need for transparency

As there is building work going on, there should be an option of moving to a new building that is being built but currently vacant or unsold.

1) There was concern at the possible imposition of direct and indirect costs that might be associated in future service charges.
2) People raised issue that magnetic doors and alarm didn’t work at all
3) Residents didn’t get an opportunity to say what exact help or support they need or can be provided after the accident

Resolution one: From the Barking Reach Residents Association committee for the emergency meeting Thursday 13 June 2019, as amended and passed unanimously.

Displaced Samuel Garside House Residents
The Samuel Garside House fire was preventable! This meeting notes with shock and sadness that:

  1. The fire in Samuel Garside House destroyed 20 flats and damaged 10 more on Sunday 9th June 2019.
  2. That due to the speed of the spread of the flames, if it had not been for the immediate urgent action of residents in the block and the surrounding area to sound the alarm to their neighbours, let alone if it had taken place at night, there would surely have been fatalities.
  3. That this was entirely preventable.
  4. That the Barking Reach Residents Association contacted Barking Riverside Ltd and Bellway asking for a fire safety inspection just one month ago (May 6-8th) after a BBC shock revelation of Bellway building practices.
  5. That our chair phoned Bellway at that time due to the concerns about the amount of wood on the estate and discussed with John Enright, who assured him the estate was safe.
  6. That residents have a legal right to full compensation for the value of their property and for the distress caused to them and their children.

We condemn:
1 Bellway’s use of untreated wood in the balconies which spread the fire through the block – just like the cladding that caused the Grenfell disaster exactly two years ago tomorrow.

  1. That Bellway refused the Association’s request to send an inspection team.
  2. That despite the abandonment of the ‘stay put’ policy roughly eight months previously, there was no audible fire alarm system in place and none sounded.
  3. That 12 months after the Grenfell fire, 120 families were still in temporary or emergency accommodation and this must not happen here!
    We believe:
    That Bellway and the others involved in the construction, design and management of the estate were negligent because they failed to address their minds to the obvious risk from the wooden constructed balconies and cladding despite previous concerns raised by residents.

We demand:
Relocation of the displaced residents in blocks C and D, and for those in A and B that also want it:

  1. Satisfactory options offered to residents.
  2. That a like-for-like exchange of flats across the estate is offered.
  3. That full compensation for the loss of value to homes, all personal losses and distress is facilitated and streamlined by all management bodies, including chasing insurance.
  4. Transparency throughout from Bellway, Adriatic, Residential Management Group, Mace and Barking Riverside Limited – openness and the involvement of the residents’ association.
  5. The use of the Verde development where homes are not sold or occupied due, for instance, to setting aside for social housing.

Service charge and Rent

  1. That any service charge or rent paid in advance by residents will be refunded, any due is now credited back.
  2. That any direct or indirect costs associated with resolving the issues are not passed on to tenants and residents of Barking Riverside via service charge or rent.
    Matt Capron – Managing director of Barking Riverside which worked on this project for 5 years:
  • He says that his team was supporting incredible council mobilization on Sunday
  • States that the role of Barking Riverside Limited is to help communicate information to residents and pass information from landlords and other stakeholders to residents
  • They will work with council and housing association to discuss problem of fire safety
    Comments:
    When residents will be moved to alternative houses? Need for a clear date.
    Residents need assurance that Barking Riverside Limited will do a survey to ensure that fire safety is in place.
    Issue of trust due to the past failures to provide fire security
    Issue of adequate maintenance of houses with wooden cladding or complete removal of wooden cladding from those houses
    Answers to those questions:
    Most of the apartments on Verday (?) are already sold and construction is not yet completed
    There has been some misinformation in terms of damages. The assessment of the building with the fire brigade and Residential Management Group found that a total of 47 apartments were damaged. A full construction team was on site within 24 hours and there are almost 56 people on site at present trying to bring those apartments back to standard. Of the 47, 27 of the apartments had no damage to the interior of the apartment, 12 suffered minor smoke damages and 8 need to be completely refurbished.
    We have a program in place to put the building back into habitable occupation and we think 27 of those apartments will be ready within 4 weeks and 12 that suffered minor damages will be ready in 8 weeks. The 8 damaged apartments will be repaired within 6 months.
    Further Q&A to the answers provided above:
    Where are people supposed to live during the reconstruction of those 8 and 27 flats and what about people who have to live near the place of construction? D
    (no clear answer was provided. It was mentioned that they still work on logistic… 38.30)
    1) Question over coming back to those apartments. People are traumatized and don’t want to come back.
    2) You said that the fire started outside and then traveled inside. The claims and paper said that apartment in not fire target and it was protected to take the heat and flame up to 30 minutes. So how come it took only 3 minutes to happen, so even fire brigade had not arrived before fire entered the flats?
    3) They used timber on balconies to make building more sustainable. But the actual building (structure & material) is fire resistant.
    People complain about not answering the question why it happened within 3 minutes rather that not 30 minutes. So buildings are not designed to be a 100% fire proof. What they are designed to is to withstand fire for sufficient period of time… ( consistent interruption, so question was not answered. The other expert steps in to explain (49.20)). So the problem that we have with designing building actually goes back to government. They goes back to civil servants and it goes back to the approved documents. The approved documents says that you can clad building with timber up to 18 meters, otherwise it going to be difficult to be clad. What it not addressed in approved document are balconies. Timber that is against brick wall was in contact with balconies’ timber which allowed fire to spread quickly. This goes back to the design, because overriding the approved documents are the building regulations. Schedule 1 Part B which states that you have to construct building in a manner in which the fire won’t spread to endanger life of people and property. So because of this air …… (50.43) they used timber over there and they breached regulation schedule 1 part B, by doing so. Basically, back to the October 2014 during the fire safety conference the issue of timber balconies were raised, but it was completely ignored by Brian Martin from DCLG , Research Establishment and numerous people from fire brigade.

Resolution two: From the Barking Reach Residents Association committee for the emergency meeting Thursday 13 June 2019, as amended and passed unanimously.

Make the Barking Riverside Estate Fire Safe

  1. Campaign
    We agree to set up a campaign to ensure that the estate is made safe, including the displaced Samuel Garside House residents.

We agree to conduct our own resident-led enquiry into all aspects of housing management including fire safety and the relocation and compensation of displaced residents (see resolution 3).

We agree to support and initiate a campaign that seeks a change in government policy to increase the standards for fire safety by property developers.

  1. Cladding
    We call on Bellway, Mace and all others involved in the construction, design and management of the estate to:
    • Immediately remove the combustible cladding from the houses and flats at their own expense.
    • Make good the appearance of the houses and flats to the same aesthetic and value.
    • Replace the wood in the balconies with alternative non-flammable materials such as steel and
    glass, with proper drainage.
  2. Systemic failure of all parties
    • We believe all landlords and management parties involved, government legislation, and
    the council in granting planning permission, failed to make sure the properties were safe
    and endangered lives.
    • Landlords and managing agents had two years since Grenfell to inspect and make good the
    balconies and cladding throughout its part of the estate and did not.
    • Adriatic and RMG, acting as their agents, failed to address the issue of cladding despite showing
    concerns about fire safety.
    • We believe Adriatic has forfeited its right to ownership of this property. It should pass as
    commonhold to the remaining residents where leaseholders.
  3. Barking Riverside Community Interest Company (CIC)
    • We believe that if the residents were running the estate, they would have implemented the fire
    safety check directly and prevented the fire.
    • The Barking Riverside Community Interest Company was set up to provide the residents with a
    majority on the board of directors.
    • We reaffirm two previous decisions of the residents’ association, that this voting majority be
    enacted and not be removed.
  4. Donations
    • We support the setting up of the Barking Reach Residents Association campaign fund to be used
    only in pursuit of the campaign of the residents’ association on fire safety, according to the guidance of the residents at its meetings. Examples –banners publicising case, protest leaflets, legal advice.
  5. Safety checks
    • We call on managing agents to reveal fire safety inspection reports, carry out a Level Four safety
    check on all flats, and conduct fire drills.

Discussion of resolution No 2:
The need to remove the cladding and replace the wood on the balcony with alternative nonflammable materials.
Call for Mace to come sit in the front.
Comments from audience:

  • We don’t want wood and we want the building to maintain in original look.
  • How is the cladding tested? Why did they chose the cheapest material for the cladding (D3) instead of A2 (limited combustability)? Why did they go for flammable material and why did they choose unsustainable cheap wood? Has testing been done to determine the pattern of fire spreading? Also, the other issue with emergency exits, as most corridors went on fire too quickly, trapping people in their apartments.
  • Demand for Bellway to be quick and precise in answering the questions
  • Approved inspector of NHBC approved the cladding in accordance to the regulations at the time (after giving them the cladding report)… There is no requirement for NHBC to share recordings of the inspections with LBBD. This legal requirement to issue a certificate was canceled.
    Answers to those comments from Bellway:
  • The cladding wasn’t cheap, it’s Ludawood, which is a high-grade cladding product and approved by the local authority and the NHBC inspector. The wood was chosen because of design reasons and the brief of the site (sustainability). Bellway can’t explain what the escape route must have been. There are series of canopies on the exits of buildings, an alarm. Now they are removing all the “unessential” timber. (Bellway is showing an architectural drawing, which the audience doesn’t understand.)
    Interference by one of the residents saying that:
  • At this meeting the residents are not going to get the answers they want, because Bellway are not ready to tell the truth.
  • The most important thing is to find new houses for the people, because they should not go back to their homes and prey for the best.
    Answers to those comments continued:
  • Bellway are taking down the cladding of all the apartments. For the houses they are discussing about coating the timber.
    Chair: Is there anyone who wants the cladding to remain. Resolution 2 calls for it to be removed.
  • What about the MACE properties?
    Mace: MACE doing a full investigation and review of the design of the houses. If we can do it in a week, we’ll do it in a week. If it takes two or three weeks .. but it will be thorough. Some Mace tenants unhappy with Mace contact.
    Barking Riverside Limited: It’s a complex situation, requiring coordination by Barking Riverside Limited with Mace, Bellway and the landlords here. The role of Barking Riverside Limited is to bring all this together quickly. The main issue is obviously the cladding.

Comments from members:
The foundation of Government policy that has allowed cladding up to 18 metres. Regulations need to be made more stringent. Of course Bellway have to take responsibility for what has happened here, but we need to campaign for the Government to change the regulations.

Chair: Part 3 of Resolution 2 is about systemic failures.

At this point, Camilla Sheldon, Office of James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, says that he thanks people for meeting him earlier in the week, that he asked her to attend the meeting and he wants to know what you have to say. She confirms that she will be reporting this straight back to his office.

Chair: Part 4 of Resolution 2 the company Barkingside Community Interest Company, in which the residents should have a majority and that would be the company that will run the estate. If this was actually the case, the residents would have implemented safety checks.
Question from the audience:
What is the plan for the 8 most damaged apartments and the residents? And what if we don’t have insurance?
Bellway replies: The apartments will be ready by November.
Insurance
Contents insurance. If people are in alternative accommodation, they should have received an individual call this afternoon from the insurance team to ensure people know their rights and entitlements.
Question from audience: Some residents can’t go to work and have their finances frozen, because of the fire and the traumatic experience they are going through. What is insurance going to give them for the weeks they are not able to work? Not only psychological distress, but financial as well.
Bellway says that there are two cabins with officers from Bellway, Barking Riverside Limited, Residential Management Group, and potentially the insurance outside, which are going to be there until the next day. Residents could go there to get correct advice and correct position.
There are two phases for accommodation. In the current short-term phase there is alternative accommodation available. The next phase is when the residents get like for like accommodation as their previous houses as long as its needed while their home is put back together.
Question from the audience: If our private landlord doesn’t want to go through the insurance process to find us alternative accommodation (which they are not required to do by law), where do we go? Reply: That is something that has to be discussed with a law expert.
A teacher at Riverside school, displaced, said she thought that it would best if the four of the representatives at this meeting would meet with people from the 8 apartments and the loss adjustor individually, because it is very difficult to talk about their circumstances when there are a lot of people present. She also asks a question of each panelist.
Question for Secretary of State for Housing. When he was at the Grenfell meeting, somebody asked him about the Barking Riverside fire and he said “It is deeply concerning”. Had people died, those words would not be sufficient. She would like government to pay attention to fire brigades which are pushing for developers not to use combustible materials but they are ignored by government that that is a massive concern. Camilla Sheldon asks for clarification on the question and is told that she wants government to ensure there are no flammable materials used on any building, irrespective of their height. Sheldon says she will take this back to the Secretary of State.

Pinnacle Places commissioned an evaluation report on Samuel Garside House in 2018. It included a risk assessment for storm and flood but not for a fire risk inspection. Why was a fire risk inspection not instructed? Alex Selsy said he wasn’t in charge of that process then, that he would check and get back to her the following day but he thought that for some reason the fire inspection was split from the other inspections but was done later (in November?).

To HomeGround – After the fire, even though she complained to them multiple times, eventually she was told that the form we used for that was indeed a template for a different building, why so careless. Eyvind Andresen replied that they commissioned a surveyor to do inspection of the various blocks. Unfortunately, the surveyors used the wrong template, which was a ‘human error’. The landlord didn’t spot in at first. The surveyor was sent back to the site and corrected the issues. The problem is fixed. This surveyor won’t be used for further evaluations.

Bellway: Cladding used was Thermowood, class D, who said it was possible to further treat the wood with fire protective treatments in order to achieve Class B, or UK Fire Rating Class 1. On Tuesday, Bellway said that they used Cedar wood to decorate the interior, which is highly flammable. Bellway said they were shocked at the way that fire took hold of the building. This shows the negligence. Some people got very upset at talk of treating wood rather than removing it.

Ian Gorst, Bellway welcomed the suggestion of meeting individually with people and would make contact to arrange that.
The wood is not treated. It can receive treatment. We have been investigating since Sunday is the ability for this material to receive treatment. We had the feeling up until this meeting that you want the material treated.
The audience reacts harshly, that they don’t want the material treated, they want it removed.

Chair invites a further round of questions as a lot of people are waiting to speak.
One of the members says that it was illegal for the developers to use this wood on the building and illegal for them not to treat it. That a lot of the stuff that was signed off, was not signed off properly. For that reason, people don’t trust the managing companies anymore and want the cladding removed for peace of mind and safety. Secondly, a lot of people have to contact all the companies separately, so the panelists should set up a crisis fund with people who directly contact residents till the end of this process.

After Grenfell, Bellway should have known this wood was highly combustible and posed a fire risk. Why haven’t you notified the resident of this risk? Secondly, if treating the wood was a requirement, why wasn’t it done for the past 10 years.

Ian Gorst of Bellway said that this was a different situation from Grenfell, which had aluminium cladding and that steps they are taking steps following what happened on Sunday to ensure fire safety.
Chair asked if all the cladding is to come off from all the buildings immediately? Bellway answered that decisions have been made to remove all the cladding from the apartments and there is a proposal to treat the houses. At this point there were expressions of distrust, worry, and concern that all cladding was not being immediately removed from all buildings, from some members. Ian Gorst said that he would take their views back to Bellway, but there was a question about what would replace the cladding.
The Chair introduced two experts in the room that he wanted to address the meeting. Shaun Murphy, a solicitor who had a member of staff who was affected by the fire. He was interested in helping her and attended the BRRA meeting the previous evening.
He said he thought that residents be getting a legal independent advice. Politically you are also very strong as a group. You should consider your approach to issues carefully. A lot of you described shortcomings like negligence. If there is negligence and you suffer loss or damage, the law requires compensation. You can look at the FAQ sheets that have been produced. You can talk to the panel individually or collectively. Once you have listened to what they have to say, do not sign up to their proposals immediately. Go away and think about it. Share your experiences. Speak to a lawyer. There are four of us here. If anyone wants to speak to us at the end – this is not a sales pitch, I got involved to help my member of staff, but if we can co-ordinate through Peter (the Chair) we will assist you in any way we can.
[Chair proposed and meeting agreed to extend the meeting time ]
Arnold Tarling (FRICS) a Surveyor: Before dealing with the issue of using a fire retardant…. The cladding is not the only problem in this building. It is the fitting of the fire doors, the fire stopping, which was recently done but there are gaps around it. And this is bigger than you think. I really will need a new in-depth, Article 11.4 inspection of your building which looks into the structure and the different areas where there were penetrations. If we look at the report in the car park, the architrave … (hard to hear/decipher) From a metal door frame, I could see straight through the concrete. There was no fastner in there.
We have ongoing problems with painting, because it is not to be done only once, but multiple times in order to keep it up. Problems with painting the back of the boards affects fire resistance. The varnish on top is a flammable material. It relies the stuff behind it to block that. And you start building it up. You end up with nil fire resistance, similar to the fire at Lakanal House, paint actually melts if a corridor for example is heated up. I don’t recommend using paint in this situation.
Chair: Our position is all the wood should be removed from the buildings. It’s not in the letter, it has not been promised and we will campaign so it is done. Resolution 3:
Venilia introduced Resolution 3 about holding a resident-led independent housing inquiry. Barking Riverside Residents Association invited Arnold to do inspection of Ernest Websdale House – a mirror image of the building that went down. Several faults and hazards, even before entering the building: gaps under fire doors, jammed fire doors, the thickness of the wood used around fire doors not thick enough, exposed electric wires, faulty access doors, poor exit signage, faulty fire control panels, damaged smoke vents… That’s why people don’t trust the panel. The resolution is about collecting testimonies from, residents t try to find solutions and make recommendations to all you stakeholders.
Resolution three: From the Barking Reach Residents Association committee for the emergency meeting Thursday 13 June 2019, as amended and passed unanimously.
Proposal for a Resident -Led Housing Inquiry
Following the recent fire on Barking Riverside and concerns raised before and after with regards to issues of safety and responsiveness from housing management, the Barking Reach Residents Association believes that an independent resident-ledinquiry should take place in order to ensure residents have dignity, power and that their voices are heard.
The day after the fire on Samuel Garside House, the association had contact with an independent building surveyor and fire expert, who carried out a brief inspection of a mirror building to the one that burned down, Ernest Websdale House on Harlequin Close.
This independent fire expert immediately found numerous faults and hazards:

  1. Gaps under fire doors
  2. Jammed fire doors
  3. Thickness of wood used around door frames were not thick enough
  4. Exposed electric wires
  5. Faulty access doors
  6. Poor exit signage
  7. Faulty fire control panel
  8. Damaged smoke vents

The enquiry would speak to local residents to document their experiences and also call on wider technical and policy expertise. The residents’ association would help three public meetings:

  1. Testimony – scope out issues
  2. Solutions – outline research findings as a response to testimonies and draw on expertise opinion
  3. Recommendations –†to present a final report back

Timeline
The inquiry would start immediately if there is support for this proposal in the first instance via the Barking Reach Residents Association officers and a future resident meeting. It is envisaged that a report would be completed over a six-month period and that it is part of a resident charter.
The final report will include recommendations to the following involved parties:

  • London Borough of Barking & Dagenham
  • Developer and related housing management contractors
  • Residents

Coordination
The residents’ association will be supported by the Thames Ward Community Project, a local
network, in sourcing examples, resident testimony and advice.

Debate on Resolution Three from the floor:
Case worker from the local MP’s office Margaret Hodge, MP said that she is not giving up on this issue, and is going to continue pushing government to enhance the regulation, that she will be approaching James Brokenshire’s office to arrange a meeting. ‘We are on your side’.
The issue of trust for the organisations on the panel is not helped by the lack of access. When we have tried to call you to report issues, such as damaged pipes, damaged kitchens or bathrooms, etc – we don’t get answered. We should not have to wait a week for a response to a phone call or have to pay for an expensive phone number. We want free simple phone numbers and a response from you. The problem is delay. We pay a service charge and should get service. Deliver, without the shouting and screaming – action.

Everything that has happened up until this point has been led by this community. We will do everything in our power to get what we want.

An Assistant Head from the school raised the issue of children being distressed by the fire and the school needs support to make sure that the children get the counselling required for them to continue their lives. Some of these children would never recover from this.

We bought our flats as they were. What to do now? We as owners have the right to know what you are going to do, what you are proposing. It’s amazing you taking the wood off, but what are you doing now? It will be a different property to what we bought.
Chair points out that the resolution says that homes should be restored to the same aesthetic value.
Bellway (?) The plans displayed are interim steps to immediately remove the timber, balconies and other parts. We have commissioned designs for new balconies that will be non-combustible. As soon as we have those proposals, we will come back and will consult on those proposals.
Before the fire, a notice of a future rise in Ground Rent was received. Is this still happening. Also, in relation to the services charge, we can’t get any service or direct contact with Michelle or Claire. Today, one woman waited twenty minutes on the phone today (which costs her money). She is constantly told that someone will get back with the answer to her questions about insurance, service charges, etc., but no one ever gets back to her.

The landlord will be waiving its ground rent for 2019 for all the leaseholders in Samuel Garside House as a gesture of goodwill in the light of what has happened.

Hugh McGeever of Residential Management Group said that staff have been on site all week and that may be why they were not available on the office phone. Michelle worked till 10om some nights. A dedicated line was set up on Tuesday. There is now a dedicated email and a team of ten people working in the office centrally on all these issues. They know it’s a terribly traumatic time but we are working to improve the situation as best they can.

Your service charge has already been paid. Services are being provided. Residential Management Group has been managing the building since November and has been led to believe that it has been an improvement. [Several people laugh ]
A residents committee is being set up to work on the building.
There is a residents association, but Michelle only wanted to talk to the block representatives. People are treated like they are dirt.

[Sound a little distorted ] Something about fire regulations and staying put rules. He says that one Tory housing minister sat on a report for four years and would not agree certain recommendations about preventing fire hazards and Brandon Lewis refused to require the fitting of sprinklers because, he said, it would discourage house builders. Also, Boris Johnson, when he was mayor of London, shut down 10 fire stations and reduced the number of fire engines by 27 and cut 552 firefighters jobs.

Under the Tory Government, fire safety inspections were reduced from 6 hours to 45 minutes. This same Government voted down proposals to make homes fit for human habitation because 72 Tory MPs were landlords themselves. How is Mr James Brokenshire going to behave differently?
Regulations need to change. It’s Barking today. It could be Bradford next week.
Issues recap: ? Sprinklers, Why reduction in inspection time – will pass on to the Home Office which is responsible for the fire service. Can pass comments on Boris Johnson to GLA
Eric Pickles for not acting on order 35 after the Lakanal House Fire, which required a redraft of Approved Document B
At this point Resolution 3 was passed unanimously.

Combustible Materials and Plastic Cladding
[2.13.30] Question from the audience: Other similar blocks and a new building BRA have a plastic cladding. Does it have combustion material in them?
[2.14.25] Chiar: We should make changes in resolution 2. Instead of asking for removal of wooden cladding, it should be just said to remove cladding.
[2.15.00] We are currently inspecting this issue and if will be removed if it’s not fire safe.
[2.22.24] Question from the audience: Until cladding is removed are we safe to stay in a building? No one should be allowed to stay there until cladding is removed.
[2.25.00] Answer from BARKING RIVERSIDE LIMITED: no answer to this question was given as it was interrupted by the question from the audience
Socialist Party – on the need for the community to stick together to put the pressure on
Shaun Murphy on Independent legal advice said that whichever lawyer you choose to speak to, you should be able to get expert legal advice on a no win no fee basis. You need to have lawyers working out the solution for you.
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Councillor, Bill Turner asked two questions.

  1. Will you undertake to publish previous, current and future fire risk assessments and share those with elected Councillors and with the Resident’s Association?
  2. There’s been talk about when the block is ready to be re-occupied. That’s a technical risk assessment as to whether someone thinks its safe to be re-occupied. That’s very different from someone who has had to run out of their home when it has gone up in flames and doesn’t feel ready to move back into that property. What we are not yet clear on is what your offer to these people is?

A further question, for Mr Brokenshire’s office: In the event that the organisations here don’t publish the reports will the Government legislate to make sure that happens?
Answer from Homeground: London Fire Brigade is looking into what happened on Sunday. They are entirely independent body, driven to find the truth and will find the cause, whatever the factors were in what happened on Sunday. They have carried out factual, scientific and forensic investigation and that report – I don’t know when it will be published, but it will be published and you will hear the results of that report. We also want to understand precisely what happened and are as anxious as you to see the result. Acknowledged the different emotional position of people who actually experienced and were directly affected by the fire from the panel organisations, but stressed the organisation’s desire to get things right.
We have already given all of those documents to the London Fire Brigade. We have already co-operated with both the London Fire Brigade and the Building Research Establishment who have attended been on site who also carried out investigations of the fire. The Risk assessments that have been requested – we have already analysed the detail of those assessments and we will be providing detail for all those who have requested them. In response to a question from the Chair, he confirmed that Homeground would provide them to Barking Riverside Residents Association.
To Residential Management Group: Did the Fire Safety Checks not highlight that this stuff was flammable and if it did what did you guys do about it because it seems to me, you didn’t do anything?
To the B&D Councillors – You approved the Planning Permission for all of this. Did you not do due dilligence a health and safety check on the material being used and should that not have been highlighted?
Pinnacle? Bellway? We appointed an assessor to undertake a type 1 fire risk assessment, looked at all the components and it also looked at the building in relation to the building regulations and there was no factor identified as a risk on the balconies, other than the fact that they should be kept clear of anything that could cause a fire. In terms of management, people should be told not to store flammable materials. If fact, the lease requires that nothing be stored on the balconies. We will tell all residents to make them aware that for safety reasons, they shouldn’t be storing any belongings on the balcony. Other than that, there was nothing inherently wrong with the balconies or the cladding.
LBB&D Councillor, Cameron Geddes on the planning permission: We had to give the planning permission. We were told it met the Regulations. Building Control will look into it. We know full well that if any Council turns down a planning application that is entirely compliant, as we were told this one is, any appeal is likely to be 100% successful…. This is why we want the Building Regulations reviewed as quickly as possible. We relied on the Regulations and that is Government responsibility.
Margaret Hodge MP has already raised it on Monday, but it is the Government not the Council that is responsible for the Building Regulations.
A few people called out comments from the floor asking what it would take to change the Regulations.
Danielle, a consultant Psychologist, described some symptoms that people might experience and said that people should not ignore them, that if they were experiencing them, they could still get treatment for their trauma. The legal case is ongoing. She has contacted the head of the local service and he has offered to come in. There is a gentleman on the estate who works for that service. If it does become relevant to you, do contact us. In reply to a question about children, she suggested that parents should make the school aware of what is happening, that needs could be included in claims.
She offered to run some drop in advice sessions, which people were supportive of.
To Matt about ongoing problems with the heating system. A tender to fit a completely new system for two buildings, but says that it has not been acted on despite 18 months passing. What is happening and how is this going forward.
Matt: I share your frustration. It is a situation we stepped into. As the team here know, I’ve spent the last 18 months trying to sort this. I funded a survey with Homeground to find a solution. The survey is now with the landlords…Ian That survey is one of three that has been done on the heating system. We, Residential Management Group and Bellway have commissioned our own. The issue is that the original system set up was complicated. We’re trying with Bellway, to find a solution and will give you a solution as soon as we possibly can, but it has to be the right one as this kit is obviously essential
Our AGM is our next meeting.