Housing association evacuates blocks over fire safety fears: residents forced to leave Paragon Estate in Brentford after structural issues uncovered

The student village has been subject to a series of safety investigations

Residents of a 1,000-home west London housing development have been evacuated after potential fire safety issues were uncovered.

All 858 people who were living on the Paragon Estate, a six-block complex in Brentford, Hounslow, have been moved to hotels and student halls while an investigation into the safety of the buildings is carried out.

Notting Hill Genesis, the housing association that now owns the development, says it is looking at the safety of the cladding and structure of the blocks after receiving expert advice that the construction of the buildings might be putting residents at risk.

Checks triggered by government guidance released since the fatal fire at Grenfell Tower revealed potential safety issues with the blocks, which range from four to 17 storeys in height.

Waking watches, temporary alarms and new evacuation procedures were all introduced in the past but the full evacuation of the buildings at 11am today was triggered by new findings.

The blocks were originally built in a factory in Newark in 2007 before being assembled on site and the 17-storey tower was hailed as one of the tallest modular buildings in the world at the time.

In 2017, Notting Hill Genesis carried out an £8 million programme to remove potentially unsafe cladding with “incorrectly installed and missing fire breaks or cavity barriers behind the cladding system, which means in the event of fire, flames could travel externally between floors”.

Paragon has 839 homes for University of West London students, although some of these are understood to be empty this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. There are also 107 shared-ownership properties and 113 intermediate rental homes, which offer reduced rents for key workers.

How do I find out if the cladding on my building is safe?

Kate Davies, group chief executive of Notting Hill Genesis, said: “I understand that Paragon residents may feel angry or alarmed by this news, as they have every right to be. This is a very distressing time and we are genuinely sorry for the huge amount of disruption and uncertainty that this situation will cause.

“This is a complex situation and we don’t yet have all the answers. We are working to uncover the full extent of the issues at Paragon so that we can provide residents with clarity about time scales, next steps and options as quickly as possible.

“We are doing all we can to support people who live in Paragon through this difficult situation. We have identified safe accommodation for everyone to move into this week and are providing financial support to help them do that. We are also giving everyone a dedicated case worker to discuss their specific needs, both now and for the longer-term where necessary.”

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