• Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Paragon Residents Forced to Evacuate Over Fire Safety Concerns

ByMolly Turley

Oct 29, 2020

Residents, including many university students, living in the Paragon tower blocks in Brentford, London were asked to evacuate their homes on 19th October, after being told that the building had been deemed a ‘significant risk to the health and safety of those occupying’ by recent surveyors. 

The Student has managed to speak to some of 668 students living in the 1059-home blocks, who have called the management of the situation by owners Notting Hill Genesis “a complete failure”, and have said they knew nothing regarding any safety issues when they moved in a month ago.

Phoebe Turley, 19, was a resident in Block C, and was a part of one of the first groups to be moved out of their flats. 

“The original notice we were given stated our lease would be terminated on 16 November 2020, so we all thought we had four weeks,” she told us on 20 October, when asked about how her move-out process went. 

“Only a few hours later, we were told that we would be moving out 14 hours from then.

“We didn’t have any boxes, and the crates that we managed to get from Paragon were lost when we arrived in Wembley, an hour away from our campus.” 

Phoebe is now living in Grand Felda House, and despite having formed a “household” with her other flatmates due to COVID-19, she was transferred to a solo room.

“The situation has been terrifying and there’s been no support from the university; the movers have even been asking us for tips, which seems wildly inappropriate for the situation.” 

When asked what she thought about the way Paragon has handled the situation, Phoebe said, “they’ve known about this for at least three years – Paragon did an investigation after Grenfell and found panels that they “didn’t know the make-up of”, and similar cladding. 

“There’s been scaffolding up for a very long time, yet they’ve made no progress in construction at all.

“We’ve been completely let down, not only by Paragon but also the government, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a similar issue all over the country. 

“They have a duty of care, and they’ve completely failed”.

Ryan Houghton, 21, was in a similar situation and also moved to Grand Felda House, but was told on 22 October that all students would be moved again, and they only had until 16:00 the next day to book a new room. 

“Once we were all moved and checked in I was left without my things for over 24 hours, so I didn’t even have a change of clothes,” he says about his move. 

“After I finally got my things, over 27 hours later, I had unpacked and settled in, only to be told the next day that we all have to move again, which is killing me inside.”

Ryan, and many others who were relocated to Grand Felda House, were livid with the way they have been treated, and especially with the lack of communication they had received from the university – when asked about this, Ryan said, “the communication has been awful; they told me and many others that we had to pack all our things and move out within 16 hours, giving us no time to think or plan anything.”

At the end of our interview, Ryan told us “tell Paragon that they have ruined the lives of many students, especially first years, most of which are living alone for the first time”.

But despite only some people being moved, residents were told on 21 October that all moving would be suspended for ‘at least the next 24 hours’. 

Arzoo Varma, 19, is one of the students who has been left at Paragon, and she has said that Paragon have said nothing since. 

“They’re not replying to anything, they just keep lying to us. They said we would be moving after 24 hours yet we’ve still not moved after that period.

“We’ve had an email saying we’ll get more information tonight [22 October], but none of us want to be here anymore.” 

Along with this, Arzoo also said that the fire alarms keep going off, which isn’t comforting – “I don’t feel safe in this building, I want to move out as soon as possible.

“I don’t know if the fire alarms are real or if they’re just being tested, but I’m scared.

“And I live on the ninth floor. If anything did happen I wouldn’t be able to run.”

Lee Moore, 19, is another student who was left at Paragon, and took to social media to express his upset. 

In an interview with him, he said, “[Paragon] have given us false information, we packed away all our things to be moved, but now we’re still here. 

“Paragon are only telling us about any delays to moving – if we want any actual updates we have to physically go down to a place called ‘the hub’, which is annoying.” 

It also appears that, even though the waiting period has passed, the Paragon residents still have no idea where they’ll be moving to. 

“Apparently they have found 3 places to put us, but we don’t know the names, so we can’t even look into them and find out information.

“But the worst part about having three different places is that many of us have formed strong bonds with others, and now we’re all getting split up.” 

Lee also expressed how appalled he is with the handling of the evacuation – he said, “the fact that over 1000 people have been allowed to live in this unsafe building for a month now is disgusting, and we’re still here now!

“They should be doing everything to evacuate the buildings as fast as they possibly can, our safety should be the main concern”. 

Notting Hill Genesis’ latest update on Twitter reads “There has been some confusion with inaccurate reporting that the evacuation is as the result of cladding. 

“To be clear, there are numerous issues with Paragon, and the evacuation of people this week is not because of cladding, but because of broader safety issues.” 

The Student reached out for a comment, but they did not respond.

Image: Dante Alighieri via Wikipedia