In the line of fire: Taplow tenant turns the tables
Man ordered to leave Highgate council flat he had been evacuated to, believes plastic window fittings on estate are a fire risk
11 January, 2018 — By John Gulliver
The Taplow tower block
ONCE Alen Kevric and his family were hunted by Camden Council – now they are becoming its pursuer.
We published the story a few weeks ago about how the Kevric family was ordered by the council to leave a Highgate council flat they had been evacuated to after their home in the Taplow tower block in the Chalcots estate, Swiss Cottage, was found to be unsafe. In one night in June more than 1,000 tenants were ordered to move after the Fire Service condemned the block.
After being moved to a Victorian block off Highgate Road, the Kevrices refused to budge until the council succeeded in gaining a possession order against them in December.
They had argued the Taplow block remained a fire risk.
I met the family the other week – and discovered Alen, a cultured, educated refugee from the Balkans, has got the council in his sights. He has become active in Taplow’s newly constituted tenants’ association, and is now a committee member.
While the council is removing the dangerous “inflammable” cladding, Alen believes the plastic window fittings in all the flats on the estate and the “cavity” behind is a fire risk!
Not only is the plastic flammable but during the private refurbishment programme of 2006 the builders left gaps between the window frames linking them to floors above and below. This, he believes, could cause a “chimney” effect in a fire – similar to the Grenfell inferno.
A steely look came over Alen as he described how he believes the windows are unsafe.
So far, the council has replaced all the window frames in the communal parts with fire-proof plasterboards. Residents want the council to do the same with the window frames in each flat.
Alen told me that after he had read this column last year pointing out how a neighbour Ivor Grealey had exposed the “cavity” behind the window frames of his flat, he had taken his own frames to pieces – and confirmed that his neighbour had got it right.
Alen now sees himself as a “social activist”, a kind of pursuer of the council determined to get to the truth.
He believes fighting his family’s lost cause over the battle for their temporary Highgate flat opened his eyes to the failures of the council.
I was astonished to discover no one from the council ever officially visited his family to explain why they should leave their new Highgate home.
The local Labour Party was conspicuously absent. Only two councillors bothered to see him – Jonny Bucknell, a Conservative, and Sian Berry, a Green representative.
I understand tenants were angry at a packed meeting on Monday evening over how they had been “mishandled” by council officials the night of the evacuation. It’s still a sore point with them.
Alen is an admin manager and caretaker of a special needs schools in Islington – his wife Andrea worked as an operating theatre nurse. She struggled with mental health issues that may have been triggered by the death of her father four years ago. Arguments presented in court that she wasn’t well enough to return to Taplow didn’t carry any weight with the council – or the courts.
Oddly enough, her husband said it seemed as if the defeat has brought a kind of peace and she now accepts the family should remain in their old home in Taplow.
Meanwhile, the bodged private refurbishment of Chalcots estate in 2006 is a potential scandal that merits a thorough investigation by the council, which shows reluctance to turn over the stone.
The tenants may feel it is now up to them to take the field.