'Stop building more towers,' MP at protest after New Providence Wharf fire
- Credit: Mike Brooke
Neighbours staged a demonstration over the ongoing cladding scandal after the horror of Friday’s blaze at New Providence Wharf.
Canary Wharf residents and 100 other leaseholders from across London and the Home Counties came together on May 8 to protest that their homes are still too dangerous to live in with cladding that is not fire-retardant.
“I got a call from a neighbour screaming ‘get out, get out' as there was a fire on the eighth floor,” young mum Mira Patel told the East London Advertiser.
“I could see smoke from a window, then flames, and was extremely worried. We have sleepless nights worrying about the cladding.”
Emergency crews arrived from Poplar, Millwall, Shadwell, Whitechapel and Plaistow fire stations with up to 25 fire engines.
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The blaze spread to the ninth and 10th floors of the 19-story tower in Fairmont Avenue on the Thames waterfront at Blackwall.
“We only managed to evacuate because we phoned each other,” Ms Patel added. “My 70-year-old neighbour was going door-to-door getting people out. She shouldn’t have to be doing that at 70.”
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Anger spilled into the protest at Canary Wharf the next day outside a construction site in Marsh Wall where another high-rise development is underway.
Poplar and Limehouse MP Apsana Begum is now calling for a freeze on all Ballymore developments until existing homes are made safe.
She said: “I have written to Ballymore but struggle to get information, so it resorts to having to raise it directly in Parliament.
“Ballymore should stop building anything further until they can make every person living in their properties safe. A freeze does need to happen.”
Ballymore declined to respond on the call for a freeze and said it was not issuing any further comment. However, it did claim to have written to Ms Begum to meet but "received no response".
The company, which put up some families at the nearby Radisson Hotel after the blaze, previously put out a statement: “The ACM cladding did not combust and played no part in causing or facilitating the fire.
“We understand how difficult and distressing it has been and are grateful for the patience residents have demonstrated.”
But the residents demonstrated anger rather than patience at the protest.
Leaseholder Natalie Carter, 43, from Tower Hamlets Leaseholders for Justice group which staged the protest, said: “We have been battling Ballymore for four years to get the cladding removed after Grenfell.
“The bill is £12 million to fix New Providence. The government will contribute £8m, but Ballymore would offer only £500,000 towards it. That leaves £3.5m for leaseholders to pay for problems we didn’t create.”
This comes after an apartment was gutted two years ago and the whole building evacuated as families made their way through smoke-filled staircases.
Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs joined Saturday’s protest and called for the developer to “do the right thing”.
He said: “We need more powers to protect people who are living scared in their homes. Developers are making good profits in good times and should do the right thing — they've made good money while the sun’s been shining.”
Massive development across the Isle of Dogs has led to demand on utilities such as mains water which has led to low pressure, especially tacking fires.
The Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Forum has campaigned for a halt in development until gas, water, electricity and sewage services can be upgraded to cope.
Leaseholders who bought homes in new developments “in good faith” say they are being made to cough up to fix a cladding problem they didn’t create.