Residents of the Golden Lane Estate’s sole high-rise tower have been issued with a fire evacuation policy after the building management team at the Corporation threw out its ‘stay put’ safety guidelines over concerns about timber wall panelling.
Great Arthur House tenants and leaseholders were notified of the changes in a letter last week, which outlined a temporary evacuation procedure, installation of new fire alarm systems, and a ‘Waking Watch’ team to patrol the 15-storey building for fire safety issues 24 hours a day.
The ‘stay-put’ policy has been the foundation of fire safety advice for housing blocks like Great Arthur House since the 1950s, and dictates that residents should only evacuate if their own flat is on fire – everybody else is generally safe to remain.
The policy came under intense scrutiny after the devastation of the Grenfell Tower fire in July, which killed nearly 80 residents, many of whom abided by the ‘stay-put’ safety advice issued.
The Corporation said the evacuation orders at Great Arthur House were introduced as temporary measures after assessors were unable to determine whether panelling on the doors and walls provides adequate fire resistance for residents to remain in their flats in the event of a fire.
A spokesperson said they would carry out further investigative works and deliver improvements to the structure of the building, which is currently being refurbished, “with a view of returning the ‘stay-put’ policy as soon as possible.”
In June the authority was forced to rip non fire-resistant insulation from the Grade II-listed building as a precautionary measure, after more than 600 high rises across the Capital were tested for similar flammable cladding that lined Grenfell Tower.
But some residents have criticised the Corporation for the lack of a “cohesive” policy and called the latest changes “a box-ticking exercise” that are “just for show”.
“There is a lot of wooden cupboards and panels in the hallway, and a lot of it looks pretty rickety, it’s hard to imagine how it would stand up in a fire,” said one resident, who didn’t want to be named.
“Everything that has happened post-Grenfell has been very haphazard – various parts come under different jurisdictions, things get passed along, we keep getting different advice.”
The resident, who has lived at Great Arthur House for more than five years, said the Corporation needed to move quicker on removing the panelling as part of the building refurbishments, which he says have been going on more than a year.
“They have to be seen to be doing something, so this looks like just trying to put a plaster on something when they don’t really know what to do.
“The works have ground to a halt, and we need more than just these token gestures – a well thought out policy instead of these piecemeal bits.”