Community Groups & campaigns
In this section we feature tenants and residents campaigns, organisations and community groups working with tower block tenants.
Are you running a campaign or a community activity on a tower block estate? Would you like to share your experience with others? Please send us your contributions.
We are featuring the Ledbury Action Group who are tenants and residents of large panel tower blocks in Southwark. In the wake of the Grenfell fire, they have found that their blocks are structurally unsound and in breach of building regulations. The tenants and residents are currently being rehoused. View their newly released film about the experience of their community campaign.
Moredun 4 Multis Residents Association in Edinburgh have provided information about safety issues in their blocks and community events including fun days.
Journey to Justice exhibition at Beckton Globe Library in Newham until 30 April 2018 and The North Kensington Law Centre are also featured. They are located in the shadow of Grenfell Tower and have been working tirelessly to provide legal advice and support to the local people affected by the fire.
North Kensington Law Centre is a not-for-profit legal advice centre, providing free and low cost legal advice to those who otherwise would be unable to afford it. Founded in 1970, NKLC was the first such Law Centre in the UK and has remained in the heart of the community in North Kensington providing much needed assistance and legal representation. The Law Centre provides legal advice on housing, immigration, welfare benefits, employment and criminal law.
Since the Grenfell Tower disaster of 14 June 2017, which occurred on the doorstep of the Law Centre, NKLC has been working flat out to help survivors from the Tower and the surrounding area gain access to justice. The Law Centre is providing free legal advice and representation to residents affected by the fire and bereaved family members, helping them with their rehousing by Kensington and Chelsea Council and to secure their immigration status from the Home Office. The Law Centre also provided free advice to residents to make arrangements for the Voluntary Interim Payments scheme and to gain access to the grant funding, as well as the many other problems the residents of North Kensington faced as a result of the Grenfell fire.
Further, the Law Centre has played a key role in influencing policymakers in both central and local government to improve their Grenfell-related policies and ensure they better reflect the needs and experiences of the Law Centre’s clients. For instance, the Law Centre submitted a substantive contribution to the consultation on the Council’s wider Grenfell rehousing policy and has been successful in pressuring the Council to make a number of improvements its rehousing policies. NKLC is also now seeking to play an active role in the numerous policy reviews that are taking place in light of the fire, in order to make sure the voices of the Law Centre’s clients are heard.
Residents on the Ledbury Estate in Southwark had been raising issues about gaps and cracks in their flats for many years. The Ledbury Estate comprises four 14-storey Large Panel System social housing tower blocks, similar in design to Ronan Point. Only after Grenfell were the residents voices heard and fire safety breaches were discovered in the towers, with the gaps significantly compromising the fire compartmentation in the blocks. Some Ledbury residents set up the 'Ledbury Action Group' and asked independent experts, including Sam Webb to advise them. As a result of the independent experts advice, it was subsequently discovered that the tower blocks piped gas supply left them vulnerable to the same type of progessive collapse seen at Ronan Point. Gas had to be removed and residents told by Southwark Council they'll need to move in order for a major structural strengthening project to be planned. The situation at Ledbury is still evolving and The Ledbury Action Group have been documenting the events on the estate via their website and blog here.
Southwark Law Centre have been supporting the Ledbury Estate residents to access legal assistance, setting up information sessions to inform them of their rights and signposting to other agencies for support.
The Ledbury Estate documentary ‘Cracks In The System’ which was shot and produced by resident filmmaker Hannan Majid of the not for profit Rainbow Collective was premiered at the East End Film Festival at Rich Mix in Shoreditch on 14 April 2018.
View the short ( 20mins long) version of this film at:
Moredun, in the South of Edinburgh, is home to six high rise blocks of flats. Each is fifteen stories high, with six households per floor, and like many such blocks they date back to the mid 1960’s.
Like residents of high rises everywhere following the horrendous events at Grenfell, there was a palpable sense of shock and disbelief amongst locals at the horror that had just unfolded – coupled with real concern and anxiety regarding the safety of their own homes.
We were approached by many tenants with concerns and questions we were simply not qualified to answer, yet it was clear that families, particularly those with young children, needed and deserved those answers. After discussions with the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, it was agreed that we call a public meeting where both of these parties could address residents and answer their questions.
Nearly fifty folk attended. But if we thought the meeting would reassure people and allay their concerns we could not have been more wrong. Tension was clear from the very beginning. The Concierge, whose job it is to inspect and maintain the blocks, were again and again verbally attacked for perceived failings to act – stairways were crumbling, fire alarms missing or damaged, fire doors wedged open or broken, windows broken, gaps under front doors – the list went on.
The anger was palpable and only skillful Chairing by an Edinburgh Tenants Federation staff member kept the meeting in order. The Concierge admitted failings and admitted being slow to act. Promises to improve, and to spend whatever money was needed to complete the repairs needed speedily, were met with cynicism. The extent to which trust between the residents and the Council had broken down was laid bare.
Two weeks later a couple of members of the Residents Association inspected the blocks stair by stair and it was clear that, with the exception of repairs to the stairs, little changed. But we are just a few amateurs, who would listen to us?
Just as we were wondering how to proceed we received an email telling us about Frances Clarke and her work with the Tower Blocks UK. Within days, through Frances, we had been introduced to Professor Arnold Dix and learned about his award-winning Tower Inspector App. Professor Dix has very kindly offered to conduct a “distance” inspection of our high rises which will be conducted over the coming weeks.
It is difficult to see how the Council could reject any recommendations which come from such an authoritative source – similarly if he finds that the blocks are safe this will provide immense reassurance to residents. Either way, it is hoped that residents can feel safe and the process of rebuilding Council – tenant trust can begin.
Meanwhile, the number of people who attended the public meeting did tell us one thing. People care. We are now harnessing that energy to positive effect. We have merged with two neighbouring associations and are organising community events – fun days, bonfire nights and the like, trying to build on the community spirit which unquestionably does exist in this much maligned part of our beautiful city.
Journey to Justice – bringing together history, the arts and social action
Journey to Justice (registered charity No. 117086) is an alliance of hundreds of volunteers across all age groups, sectors and regions of the country who believe that stories from the past of ‘ordinary’ people who took action for justice and human rights can inspire us to become active citizens ourselves. Our travelling exhibition tells little known stories of people involved in the US Civil Rights Movement and makes links to historic and current UK movements for change. We’ve already been on Tyneside and Wearside, in South Yorkshire, Nottingham and East and South London and are moving on to Bristol, the West Country, Humberside and the East Midlands – in each place uncovering and sharing local histories and running linked activities that continue after the exhibition has left.
The Journey to Justice exhibition is on display at Beckton Globe Library, Newham until April 30th.
For details of opening hours. Visit our website here.
We tell six powerful local stories of people's struggles for justice including the campaign for proper safety standards in tower blocks after the Ronan Point Disaster, 1968.
The exhibition features tower block campaigning in Newham and nationally, it describes how local people pressed for change, helped by a trusted community group. It included committed experts and used the media effectively.
Journey to Justice Fact Sheets online here
Yorkshire development tenants action group
A history of the tenants movement in Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Hull and the formation of the Yorkshire Development Tenants Action Group.
Manchester sustainable communities
Phil Murphy of Manchester Sustainable Communities has written a blog about energy issues which affected his block of flats. Click on the PDF image to read Phil's blog.