Safety fears at torched Barking flats ‘first raised after Grenfell’

Safety concerns around a block of flats ruined by fire on Sunday were first raised in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it is claimed.

Fears about cladding were voiced almost two years before the blaze which destroyed 20 flats and damaged 10 more at a block in Barking, east London, a residents’ association member said.

An investigation is under way after the building, part of the Barking Riverside development, was engulfed on Sunday.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan visited the scene on Monday as an emergency meeting was held for residents, many of whom remained unable return to their homes in adjacent blocks until they were deemed safe.

Venilia Amorim, treasurer of the Barking Reach Residents’ Association, told the Press Association: “Several residents, with the help of the residents’ association, have been raising concerns since the Grenfell Tower fire two years ago.”

Friday marks two years since Grenfell Tower, in Kensington, west London, was gutted by fire, killing 72 people.

Ms Amorim said buildings in the Barking development, including both flats and houses, are covered with a wooden cladding which residents were told was safe.

But the speed the fire spread has raised fresh questions over the safety of the materials, she said.

“The wooden cladding is everywhere,” said Ms Amorim.

“We have got a lot of residents now not wanting to go back to their homes, not even to the adjacent blocks, because there’s no guarantee that this won’t happen again.”

She described a similar block nearby as a “mirror image” of the gutted flats, adding: “One of the concerns now with this building is there is a huge temporary heating system outside of one of the entrances and that’s on diesel.”

Bellway Homes, which built the flats, said: “We are taking the matter very seriously and working with all parties to help in establishing the cause of the fire.”

Nobody was hurt in the fire, but a man and a woman were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

Fifteen fire engines and 100 firefighters were called to tackle the blaze, at De Pass Gardens, which broke out at about 3.31pm and took several hours to bring under control.

Barking and Dagenham Council set up rest centres for evacuated residents and has endorsed a fundraiser for people affected.

More than £10,000 of the £100,000 target had been raised by Monday afternoon.

Councillor Darren Rodwell, leader of the council, said: “In the aftermath of the fire yesterday, residents are understandably concerned about the safety of their homes.

“I have spent the whole day with residents and support staff at the community centre and the site of the fire.

“Earlier today I joined representatives from London Fire Brigade and other organisations to give residents the very latest information and reassure them that we have arranged accommodation for them over the next three nights.

“We are doing all we can to make sure residents who have lost their homes are as comfortable as possible and have access to services that will help them through this difficult period.”

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