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Barton House: Evacuated residents face fear and uncertainty over safety-hit Bristol tower block | UK News

Lawyers representing survivors of the Grenfell fire are liaising with residents evacuated from a tower block in Bristol over safety fears, according to housing union Acorn. 

Around 400 people were given just hours to leave their homes at Barton House in the city on 14 November and are yet to return.

Many – including around 100 children – are being housed at a Holiday Inn hotel in the city centre.

The 15-storey block of 98 flats was evacuated nearly two weeks ago over concerns about structural safety following surveys inside three flats.

Wesley Bear from the union told Sky News the lack of information is making many residents scared.

He said: “They don’t really know if they can go back, when they can go back, lots of them are even too scared to go back if they’re allowed to.

“We are looking at legal action – we have a solicitor who represented some of the survivors of Grenfell Tower actually contact us at Acorn to put them in touch with some of the residents which we are doing.”

The 2017 disaster in west London, which claimed the lives of 72 people, highlighted building safety flaws and led to a ban on combustible cladding for high-rise blocks.

At Barton House, inspection work continues inside six apartments with the council warning it could be some weeks before residents are allowed back.

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The block of 98 flats was evacuated nearly two weeks ago

One of them, Rayhan Ismail, had been there for four years.

He, his wife and two young children are now having to live in one bedroom at the hotel.

Mr Ismail said: “For my son it’s been really bad as he’s got really bad asthma.

“The rooms are not equipped for four people and staying there now for a week-and-a-half – it’s going to be very difficult – it’s very bad.

“There’s only so long you can stay there with kids and at the moment, it’s not viable to stay there for a long time.”

He said safety concerns about Barton House mean many residents are reluctant to return.

“I don’t think anyone wants to go back to Barton House, ever. They’ve told us it’s not safe to live in,” he added.

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Bristol City Council said inspections found a risk to the structure of the block, in the event of a fire, explosion or large impact.

File photo dated 16/02/21 of The Grenfell Tower, as a call for change from experts on fire safety must be listened to, otherwise a Government consultation on staircases in tall buildings will be a "sham", a leading architect has said.
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Picture by: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images
Date taken: 11-Jun-2023
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The Grenfell disaster highlighted building safety flaws

The city’s mayor Marvin Rees, who was not available for an interview with Sky News, said in a recent blog post that following inspections the building may not have been built to its original design – adding that there was an apparent lack of structural ties between the floors and the load-bearing external walls.

In a statement, the council said hotel staff, council officers and many local volunteers continue to support residents at the Holiday Inn (Bond St) to make their temporary stay as comfortable as possible.

Just metres from Barton House is Cafe Conscious – a community hub that has coordinated much of the volunteer response.

Led by Deniece Dixon, the cafe offers residents hot meals, a warm space and advice.

“A lot of the families are in shock – a lot of the families are distressed – they still can’t believe this is happening,” she said.

“It’s not knowing, that’s the most difficult part, it’s not knowing.”

Josie Mears has just put up a Christmas tree in her hotel room that she shares with her children
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Josie Mears has put up a tree and lights in the hotel room she shares with her children

Hotel room of Josie Mears

Many residents of Barton House fear they will never be allowed to return to the block – which is the latest building scandal to hit the UK following the crisis caused by unsafe reinforced autoclaved concrete (RAAC).

Mother-of-two Josie Mears has just put up a Christmas tree in her hotel room that she shares with her children.

She said: “I personally don’t think we’ll be back in the flats for Christmas. It’s not fair for the kids – the one thing they will question if you’re not making it as magical for them is, ‘Is Santa going to know where we are?'”

While the majority of residents have left the block, 15 households have chosen to return.

On Wednesday, general-secretary of the Fire Brigade Union Matt Wrack criticised the government for failures over building safety.

He said: “The crisis in building safety has been caused by failures at every level of government, and a lack of regulation and enforcement. This is yet another example of communities being failed and lives being put at risk.”

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