Following a survey that revealed structural and fire safety concerns with a tower block that hundreds of residents had to evacuate, Bristol City Council has announced multimillion-pound plans to assist these affected residents.

05 December 2023

After Barton House was evacuated in an emergency, the local council believes that it will require up to £2.6 million to support the residents. A new report will be submitted to the council cabinet this week for funding approval.

The council has reserved 96 rooms at the Holiday Inn through the end of January in order to accommodate anyone who might need it. The agreement with the Holiday Inn included all meals, laundry, cleaning services, and other support residents needed to stay at the hotel while Barton House was the subject of additional investigations, the council stated in a press release. Free transport will remain available to those who need it.

The costs listed in the report also include more patrols to lower the risk of a fire, more security at the block to secure properties, and support for residents to gather essential items inside the building.

For its part, the council has faced criticism so far, and last month it was forced to deny allegations that it tried to remove residents' belongings from Barton House. The way the council handled the major incident left residents and members of the tenant union, Acorn, feeling "left in the dark." A couple of weeks ago, some of the 400 residents who had moved out of the tower block convened for a protest in front of the city hall, calling for an independent inquiry into the events, compensation, and a local rehousing plan.

Bristol also mentioned in its most recent update that those who are currently staying with friends and family are entitled to a daily allowance to help with extra expenses like food or energy. Payments are dependent on the composition of the household with assistance available at a maximum rate of £50 per night.

The agreement was not connected to any decisions regarding the future of Barton House, according to the council, which called it a "precautionary arrangement" in case the rooms were required.

“The surveys we need to carry out are ongoing, and once we have the results, we will be able to tell residents what the next steps are for the block,” the council added.

The 65-year-old tower block in Barton Hill, on the outskirts of the city centre, had building surveys of three of its 98 apartments, which revealed that there was a risk to the building's structure in the event of a fire, explosion, or large impact. This information led the council to announce the evacuation.

Due to the building's age and construction technique, the 1958 completion of the block has been the focus of several surveys conducted recently to evaluate options for its future. In an effort to comply with regulatory requirements, the council stated that it periodically surveyed its estate, but Bristol does not believe there is any evidence that the problems found in Barton House are happening elsewhere.

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