Page last updated at 16:07 GMT, Saturday, 10 October 2009 17:07 UK

'Hazard' tower belongings removed

Brittany Point (left)
Brittany Point was described as "a disaster waiting to happen"

Residents were left "distraught" after council workers removed "hazardous" possessions from a south London tower block shortly after a fire inspection.

Lambeth Living cleared items from the landings of three Ethelred Estate blocks in Vauxhall, south London.

Items belonging to the 300 residents were disposed of or put into storage. Lambeth Living said they took the action to protect residents' safety.

Last month 110 Lambeth Council tower blocks required fire risk assessments.

They were among hundreds of tower blocks across London which had not been assessed for fire safety, a BBC London investigation found.

They included Ethelred Estate block Brittany Point, described by chartered surveyor Arnold Tarling as "a disaster waiting to happen".

'Cleared immediately'

A London Fire Brigade spokesman confirmed the estate was inspected on Thursday.

He said: "Officers from the London Fire Brigade visited Elkington Point, Brittany Point and Ward tower blocks in Lambeth on 8 October and requested that for fire safety purposes communal areas should be cleared immediately."

Council workers subsequently told residents their belongings would be removed later that day.

A spokesman for Lambeth Living, which manages the estate on behalf of Lambeth Council, said: "We sought to contact every resident individually by knocking on their doors so they could claim their property and remove it from communal areas.

"Property that was not claimed has been taken into storage and will be returned to them at the earliest opportunity."

This would not be until Monday at the earliest, he confirmed.

A worker clears landings on the Brittany Point estate
It is alarming that the safety of residents has been so neglected that such a drastic action has had to be taken and in such a heavy-handed manner
Lambeth councillor Jeremy Clyne

Steve Rice, chairman of the North Lambeth Leaseholder Forum, said: "I got a call from my neighbours, very distraught, saying that if there was anything outside your front doors Lambeth (Living) was here throwing it in skips."

He returned home to the estate to see Lambeth Living workers putting bicycles, children's toys, plants, prams and clothing into trucks outside.

Mr Rice said Lambeth Living "decided what of your stuff could be kept and what of your stuff could be thrown away".

"When you have people overcrowded in social housing because the council cannot find them somewhere else to live, they have no option but to store their baby pushchairs and things outside the front door," he added.

"The reason it happened was because (Lambeth Living) was caught with their guard down and the buildings were not safe."

Liberal Democrat councillor Jeremy Clyne said: "The scene I observed last night beggared belief.

"It is alarming that the safety of residents has been so neglected that such a drastic action has had to be taken and in such a heavy-handed manner."

The Lambeth Living spokesman said the residents previously received "repeated warnings" about clearing the communal areas and "the serious fire hazard this causes".

"The safety of our residents was of absolute paramount importance here," he said.

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