Council evacuates 1430 families, or 6000 people, to fortify 29 blocks

November 1968

Ronan Point: aftermath

The first evacuations of tall blocks was announced by the Greater London Council five months after the collapse, in November 1968.

A total of 29 blocks will be cleared for strengthening, a decision that involves 1430 families, or 6000 people. Newham announced the evacuation of three blocks near Ronan Point, and the GLC said that 26 of its own blocks, housing 1100 families on eight estates, were to be strengthened in the next 12 months.

Desmond Plummer, leader of the GLC, emphasised that there was “no cause for alarm”. He said that the risk of progressive collapse was “one in 2 million”. Strengthening work is expected to cost about“ £1m and a start will be made as soon as possible on one block on each estate. The GLC has spent £360,000 replacing gas with electricity.

Mr Plummer promised that no removal costs would fall on tenants. The GLC would be expecting financial aid from the government. Horace Cutler, chairman of the housing committee, said that when work was complete tenants would have a choice of going back to their homes or staying where they were.

He said that they were being asked to move because of the nature of the strengthening work and not because of the remote risk. It has been decided that gas will not be reinstalled once the work is complete.

Anthony Greenwood, the minister of housing, said that there should be “no witch hunt” after the “tragic event”. As to the report of the Comité Européen de Breton referred to in the inquiry, which made specific mention of the dangers of the danger of progressive collapse, he said the absence of an English translation was “not all that relevant”.

It has been received by the BRS in August 1967 and passed to the BSI in September that year, so it was “logical to think that it had been influencing thinking on the new code of practice”. Nevertheless the minister admitted that “possibly its full significance was not fully appreciated in the early days”.

Local authorities have been studying the hastily compiled technical advice on appraising and strengthening their tall precast concrete panel blocks of flats that has been produced by the ministry.

There are two basic methods of preventing progressive collapse: firstly, by providing alternative paths of support to carry the load; secondly, by producing a form of construction of such stiffness and continuity so as to ensure stability.

There has been criticism that the circular it has published is “confusing” and “inadequate”. Some engineers feel that the document errs in merely laying down criteria so that the burden of decision rests with local authorities ill-equipped to deal with this kind of technical problem.