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Residents evacuated from modular blocks due to fire safety concerns

19 October 2020

One of London’s largest housing associations has announced a building and fire safety review of six residential blocks in the capital, following advice that the construction of the buildings may be putting residents at risk.

Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) employed consultants to investigate the Paragon development in Brentford, Hounslow, which is made up of six blocks, the tallest of which is 17 storeys, totalling 1,059 homes.

Around 1,000 people will be asked to leave immediately to protect their health and safety, while further investigative work on the buildings’ structural and fire safety is undertaken.

Paragon was developed by Berkeley First, part of The Berkeley Group as part of a £100m scheme and involved the use of modular units manufactured by Caledonian Modular.

At the time of its construction, the 17-storey block was thought to be the tallest modular building in the world, according to Caledonian.

The modules used fully welded steel frames, with hot-rolled steel to create the structure of each module and cold-rolled steel to provide joisting and wall panel structures. These were fitted out in Caledonian’s Newark facility, prior to delivery and installation on site. The core areas of the taller buildings were constructed in slip formed concrete, with the modular residences assembled around the core.

The estate was owned initially by the former Presentation Housing Association, which became part of Notting Hill Housing – now Notting Hill Genesis – in 2009.

Earlier building performance issues, together with fire safety issues related to the cladding and the subsequent new government guidance since the fire at Grenfell Tower, triggered a series of safety checks at Paragon by technical consultants, which have each revealed further problems with this development, NHG said.

The six blocks consist of the following:

  • Block A – a five-storey building consisting of 41 units of intermediate market rent.
  • Block B – three interconnected buildings of four, five and nine storeys with 107 shared ownership leasehold units and 72 intermediate rent.
  • Blocks C, D, E and F – 17, 12, 12 and five storeys respectively, hold a combined 839 units of student accommodation which is occupied by students nominated by the University of West London.

The freeholds of Blocks C through F are owned by Touareg Trust, which is a registered charity and is a subsidiary of Notting Hill Genesis. 

Blocks A and B are owned by Notting Hill Genesis. Notting Hill Home Ownership, a not-for-profit subsidiary of Notting Hill Genesis, holds a long leasehold interest at Block B where the shared ownership homes are located. 

Kate Davies, group chief executive of Notting Hill Genesis, said: “First, I want to say how sorry we are to residents that we have had to take this action and disrupt their lives. But, as a not-for-profit housing association, our priority is to provide safe, affordable housing. We always ensure the wellbeing of our residents, so while we are incredibly disappointed to have to make this decision, we believe that we have no choice but to ask people to leave their homes on the Paragon estate.

“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 timescales, 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 caseworker to discuss their specific needs both now and for the longer-term where necessary.”

Caledonian Modular has been contacted for comment.