Barton House: Hundreds forced to leave homes as major structural fault found at Bristol tower block

  • Richard Payne reports from the scene of the evacuation

People living in a tower block in Bristol have been told to leave their homes due to a "major structural fault".

Barton House, in Barton Hill, started being evacuated at around 5pm on Tuesday 14 November.

Tenants in the city council’s oldest high-rise Barton House in Redfield were told surveys at three flats had found the building was at risk of “collapse” in the event of a fire, explosion, or large impact.

As many as 400 people - including 100 children - live in the building.

It is not known how long they will be unable to return home for but ITV News understands residents have been told to pack enough stuff to last them a day or so. Where possible, people have been asked to stay with friends and family.

Bristol City Council has declared a major incident, which enables it to receive aid from other authorities and organisations.

Two council meetings were cancelled at short notice so staff could work to find people alternative accommodation.

The council said it was contacting residents and going door to door at the block, which was built in 1958 and has about 100 flats, asking them to leave as a precautionary measure.

The council said the 15-storey block’s design and construction was “unique” on its estate and that it did not believe other buildings were at risk but that it would not be taking that for granted.

'This place should have been knocked down years ago' - resident

One resident told ITV News they found out about the evacuation on social media.

“The only thing I knew is I received a message on Facebook saying there is something wrong in Barton Hill," he said.

"My flat has been bad for two to three months- leaking leaking leaking, half of the ceiling just came away - literally about a month ago.

"I’ve been trying to get in touch with the council leaving messages - nothing. It’s rotten from bottom to top - damp, mould, everybody’s got it.

"This place should have been knocked down years ago. I don’t know what’s going on. I haven’t got a clue.”

Another resident said: "A friend of mine from the other block messaged me and sent me a link to reports.

"Then a guy knocked on our door and said we had to be evacuated by 11pm.

"It was all a bit of chaos- now we have to travel across Bristol. Thankfully my mum offered to have us.

"I don't know what's going to happen."

In a statement, Bristol City Council said: "The block has recently been subject to a number of surveys to assess options for the future of the building due to its age and method of construction.

"The surveys undertaken to three flats out of the 98 in the block indicate that in the event of a fire, explosion or large impact, there is a risk to the structure of the block.

"As a precautionary measure and to allow for further, more in depth surveys, residents in the block are being asked to leave Barton House immediately.

"No evidence has been presented to suggest there is any immediate risk to health and life. The further planned survey is designed to provide all the information needed to fully assess the building structure.

Police were called in to support the evacuation. Credit: ITV News

"There is currently no evidence to suggest the issues identified within Barton House are present elsewhere, although the council is regularly surveying its estate as it works to meet all regulatory requirements.

"Officers have updated Avon Fire and Rescue with regards to the situation, who in turn have acknowledged the approach being taken is proportional.

"Further information will be made available on an ongoing basis. Residents are advised to follow Bristol City Council social media channels and keep mobile phones nearby to receive further updates from the housing team."

Where should residents of Barton House go?

People affected are being directed to Wellspring Settlement, which is being used as an emergency information point.

People are being directed to Wellspring Settlement for support. Credit: ITV News

Barton House residents who have not yet spoken to officers or need more help can call a dedicated free hotline on 0800 694 0184 from 8.30am to 5pm on Wednesday 15 November. The number to phone outside these hours is 0117 922 2050.

People can also visit the council’s Citizen Service Point at 100 Temple Street from 10am on Wednesday.

A rest centre has also been set up at the Tawfiq Masjid and Centre for those who cannot stay with friends and family, with other centres being set up.

Rebecca Scott has been helping people at Cafe Conscious. Credit: ITV News West Country

Elsewhere Cafe Conscious in Avonvale Road is being used to support people.

Rebecca Scott MBE has been helping people there. She said: "It's a place to charge your phone, a place for the kids to be able to play and also a place for people to bring donations and for people to collect donations. We're quite keen to receive more donations of toiletries and also children's toys.

"Everyone has been brilliant, coming down, making donations and helping out and being a fab community like they usually are."