Police called as furious families told to quit Bow's 'dangerous' block
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Police were allegedly called when angry families confronted housing officials at Clare House tower block in Bow, which is having to be evacuated because of “structural” dangers.
Officials from Clarion Housing Group, which manages the former Tower Hamlets Council block, were holding a meeting with tenants and leaseholders today, October 1, when a confrontation developed.
“Next thing we knew they called in the police,” tenant Carlton Bolter told the East London Advertiser. “Some people got angry because Clarion had offered to rehouse them in luxury flats, then took that away and would put them in a B&B instead and people got upset.
“We want to get out if this block is dangerous, but things got heated and the officials just left the room and called police.”
The 22-storey block is built by a similar industrial method of load-baring concrete panels bolted together as the infamous Ronan Point in Canning Town, which partially collapsed in 1968 when some of the panels were blown out in a gas explosion, killing three people.
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Blocks like Clare House on the Monteith Estate in Hawthorn Avenue, near Victoria Park, have banned gas mains — everything in the 120 flats is electric.
But what angered families was being given orders to be out by Monday.
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Lawyer Dan McCurry, who has leased a flat in Clare House for 20 years, told the Advertiser: “I’ll go and live somewhere else if they can pay market price, but I don’t like being told I have to leave my own property. They don’t have a legal possession order, just saying we have to go.”
Dan can’t get a valuation on his flat, he points out, because estate agents won’t now send in surveyors because of the dangerous structure.
The Monteith estate was built by Tower Hamlets Council in 1972 and was handed over to Old Ford Housing Association in 2006.
This was later taken over by Clarion Housing Group amid protests and a campaign by families backed by councillors Rachel Blake and Marc Francis, who represent Bow at the town hall.
Cllr Blake said: “The residents were shocked and concerned when someone knocked on their door and asked them to move. There needs to be clear support for people and a commitment from Clarion.”
The housing group discovered the structural weakness while installing a sprinkler system at Clare House.
Inspections found that not every part of the building met latest government standards for large panel system construction.
Clarion’s chief executive Clare Miller promised: “There will be a round-the-clock waking watch in the building as we help people move out in an orderly fashion.
"The focus right now is doing everything to support Clare House residents into temporary accommodation.“
But Cllr Francis insists the dangers were known for at least two years.
“This is not something they just found out," he alleged. "The fire safety issue has been going on since 2019 when fire marshals went in. Something must have been wrong.
"The families are not happy with the alternative accommodation. They were offered one thing that changed to B&B or smaller flats. This is a bombshell for them."
Campaigners in the past have criticised the housing body for handing maintenance to outside contractors.
It led to Cllr Francis quitting the estate’s local management board in 2016 in a row about outsourcing contracts after a family of four were taken to hospital with suspected gas poisoning in their home.
In a letter to the families, Clarion said: “Clare House cannot be kept safe without major refurbishment or demolition and rebuilding. Either option will involve several years of construction activity.
"We have decided the only course is rehouse all Clare House residents permanently in suitable alternative accommodation without delay.”
Families are being moved out from the top five floors first. They plan to attend an open meeting outside the block later today, attended by Tower Hamlets councillors.