Barton House: Bristol Mayor issues update on "fast moving and complicated situation" at tower block

Hundreds of people were evacuated from Barton House. Credit: ITV News

Residents given just five hours to leave their homes in a tower block in Bristol have been told they may not be able to return for "some time" after a major incident was declared.

On Tuesday 14 November, as many as 400 people - including 100 children - living in Barton House, in Barton Hill, were told to evacuate due to a structural issue with the building. 

Tenants in the city council’s oldest high-rise were told surveys had found the building was at risk of “collapse” in the event of a fire, explosion, or large impact and had not been built to specifications.

Issuing an update on Wednesday 15 November, the council said that three of the 98 flats in the structure had been surveyed and that the process will take "some time" to complete.

Residents have been told they are not allowed to return to the tower block until this has been done and it's unclear how long this will be.

Following the evacuation, fifty seven hotel rooms were provided to families in need and four people stayed at a rest centre at City Hall.

Nine households decided to stay in their property and twenty nine households did not answer their doors. All other households chose 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.

A day after the evacuation started, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees released a statement on the situation - apologising for his absence from the city.

Mayor Marvin Rees. Credit: ITV News

He said: “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 and 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.”

Mr Rees is currently in Rwanda for a conference on climate and migration. He said he will be back “as soon as [he] can”. 

His statement went on to explain survey work had been ordered on the property to assess potential future options for it given its age and method of construction.

A number of issues emerged suggesting the building’s construction is sufficiently different to its blueprints to imply a 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.