The last residents refusing to leave tower blocks declared a fire hazard in London are being urged to evacuate their flats on Sunday amid warnings that work to make the buildings safe cannot begin until they go.
Camden council officials are knocking on doors to try to persuade the last residents on the Chalcots estate to accept temporary accommodation, council leader Georgia Gould said.
The effort to clear the estate comes after the government revealed that all of the 34 high-rises that have so far submitted cladding samples in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster have failed combustibility tests. Hundreds more blocks are yet to be tested.
Although hundreds have left the Taplow, Bray, Dorney and Burnham blocks in Camden since the council ordered the evacuation on Friday evening, up to 80 people in 20 households are believed to be refusing to leave their homes, including some with young children and others concerned about their pets.
“By remaining in the blocks these residents risk delaying the work that is required and that we are undertaking to make these homes safe,” Gould said in a statement. “It is not safe to remain in these blocks and our residents’ safety will continue to be the council’s number one priority.”
The council said it could take two to four weeks for the four blocks to be made safe.
Asked what would happen if some residents refused to leave, a spokesman for the council said: “We do have legal options available but we really, really don’t want to go down that route.”
He added that “for the moment, certainly for today” they would continue to try to persuade and reassure people that the council was acting on the fire authorities’ advice, with the best interests of the residents at heart.
Officials had been working through the night to support residents who obeyed the instruction to leave on Friday – some finding shelter with friends and family, and others sleeping on air mattresses in a local hall. But others complained that they had sat all night on plastic chairs waiting to hear about hotel rooms.
The council said nearly 200 offers of temporary accommodation had been made, and most had been accepted.
The council has also organised an Eid feast in the Swiss Cottage community centre, with food, entertainment and a children’s creche celebrating the end of Ramadan, for anyone affected by the Chalcots evacuation.
“For everyone affected, we know that having to leave your home is distressing, and I understand that some residents are angry and upset. But the council must and will act to protect our residents,” Gould said.
Gould has committed £100,000 of council funds to pay for food and essential items residents may need, with the council having already spent £500,000 on hotel rooms for residents.
A homework centre with teachers in attendance has also been set up in Swiss Cottage to support schoolchildren.
After the news that cladding samples from every tower block tested so far had failed combustibility tests, the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, urged local authorities and housing associations to continue to submit samples “as a matter of urgency”.
The buildings are located in 17 local authorities across the country, including Manchester, Plymouth, Portsmouth, as well as Camden, Barnet, Brent, and Hounslow in London.
On Saturday, Jeremy Corbyn said that Theresa May must “get a grip” on the Grenfell Tower aftermath. The Labour leader called the situation a “nationwide threat” and called on the prime minister to convene a meeting of the government’s emergency response committee Cobra to deal with it.
“I urge the government to make sure all necessary support, including, crucially, financial support, is urgently made available to councils across the country so they can deal swiftly and effectively with the scale of the fire safety challenge,” he said.