Barton House: Bristol tower block evacuation followed 'failures at every government level'

400 people were evacuated from Barton House on 14 November.

Failures "at every level of government" are responsible for the emergency evacuation of Bristol’s oldest tower block, according to Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members.

The FBU has said residents in Barton House would face "serious disruption" for weeks after they were told they would need to leave their homes.

More than 400 people - including around 100 children - were told to pack a bag of clothes and leave on the evening of Tuesday 14 November.

They were given less than five hours to make their way out of the building after surveys flagged a “risk to the structure of the block”.

A report said it would be unsafe in the event of a fire, explosion or large impact.

The council is now carrying out further surveys and residents are expecting an update in the next few weeks to find out if they will ever be allowed to return to their homes.

"No one should have to worry about whether their home might collapse"

In a statement published on Wednesday 22 November, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “No one should have to worry about whether their home might collapse in the event of a fire.

“The crisis in building safety has been caused by failures at every level of government, and a lack of regulation and enforcement. This is yet another example of communities being failed and lives being put at risk."

The FBU pointed out that Barton House was constructed using a large panel system. 

This style of construction has been known to be potentially dangerous since 1968, when a gas explosion at Ronan Point tower in east London partially collapsed, killing four people.

It has also added that they found no records of any structural surveys of Barton House between the 1970s and at least 2018.

It said concerns “have been repeatedly raised” and these possibly fatal safety risks “have not been properly addressed by Westminster”.

Matt Wrack added: “Decision-makers at every level of government must listen to residents. We need urgent action from central government to ensure all tower blocks and housing are fit for purpose."

Residents are waiting to hear if they will be allowed to live in their homes.

In response, a Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “People must feel safe in their homes. Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Government has introduced some of the toughest building safety regulations in the world through its landmark Building Safety Act.

“The Act also introduced a new Building Safety Regulator to review the safety and standards of all buildings, to monitor and examine any potential risks or changes that may affect residents’ safety, and to oversee a culture of higher standards throughout our built environment.”

Bristol City Council has declined to comment.