My thoughts are with everyone at this time and I’m grateful to all residents for your patience. I extend my thanks to the family, friends, volunteers, faith leaders and community groups who have come forward to provide support.
We have written to the tenants of Barton House to update them on what is a fast moving and complicated situation.
I’m sorry to residents that I couldn’t be with you in person last night. Over the weekend, I travelled to Kigali to take part in the Commonwealth local Government Forum’s conference on climate and migration. I will be back in Bristol as soon as I can but in the meantime I know housing officers, cabinet members, my office, senior council staff have all been on hand. I extend my thanks to them also.
We have made the decision to evacuate Barton House because we are putting the safety of our residents first and foremost. We understand the disruption and inconvenience this has caused, but rest assured our top priority is to make sure everyone is looked after and updated as the situation unfolds.
We are working as quickly as we can to carry out the necessary further investigations and surveys on the building to ensure we have a full understanding of the situation.
Please allow me to summarise the situation we are facing:
Yesterday, council leaders made the difficult decision to evacuate residents of Barton House. While there is no evidence of an immediate risk to life, this precautionary decision was taken following receipt of results from surveys undertaken to assess the building’s structure.
These surveys were ordered as part of work to assess potential future options for Barton House given its age and method of construction.
A survey of three out of ninety-eight of the flats has indicated that the building may not have been built to the specification set out in its design. A number of issues have emerged that suggest the building’s construction is sufficiently different to its blueprints that there is a material risk to the structure of the block in the event of a fire, explosion or large impact.
This includes the apparent lack of structural ties between the floors and the load-bearing external walls. There is lower fire resistance of these structural elements and less concrete cover than set out in the original plans for the floors. Even if there was concrete cover as thick as set out in the original plans, this would still be less than would be used in a building built today.
We are working at pace to complete further surveys now, to go deep into the structure and understand when it would be safe for residents to move back into Barton House.
The surveys will take us some time to complete, so residents will need to be away from home while they are carried out. We are working as quickly as we can to find everyone suitable temporary accommodation.
We have managed to make direct contact with most Barton House residents. We are asking people to contact us with their details to let us know if they or other residents are not getting updates from us. We will then be sure to add their details.
Fifty seven hotel rooms were provided to families in need and four people stayed at our rest centre at City Hall. Nine households decided to stay in their property and twenty nine households did not answer their doors, so may not have been home.
We are working throughout the day and evening to make contact with those households we couldn’t speak to yesterday and continue to have an ongoing dialogue with those who chose to stay inside Barton House. All other households chose to stay with friends and family.
Officers have made every effort to acquire and prepare emergency accommodation for residents. More rooms are becoming available by the hour with further expected to be secured by the weekend.
I’m grateful to so many organisations and businesses across the city who offered accommodation or to provide support and rest in their buildings for those displaced by this evacuation.
Likewise, we’ve been inundated with offers of donations and volunteer support. This overwhelmingly positive response from communities across the city demonstrates clearly the kindness and care inherent across our city. However, donations are not required and we are asking any offers of volunteering to visit the Can Do Bristol website with their offers of support. This way we will be able to ensure our efforts are best coordinated.
Information for Residents
If you are a resident in Barton House and need to speak to a Housing Officer or have a question that needs answering about the current situation, please call our free helpline on 0800 694 0184. Outside of office hours, you can call 0117 922 2050. Please provide the call handler with your contact details so an officer can contact you directly. Housing officers will be available at your temporary accommodation or at Barton House.
We know there will be lots of questions and concerns over the coming days and we will do our best to keep everyone informed.