Evacuated Bristol tower may have defect since construction, says council | Bristol

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A major structural risk uncovered in a 65-year-old Bristol tower block may be the result of a construction error, the city council has said.

On Tuesday evening, within hours of the risk being detected, about 400 people were told to evacuate Barton House, which was completed in 1958 and is the oldest high-rise in the city council’s estate.

Some people spent the night with family and friends, others in hotels. Nine households refused to leave and 29 could not be contacted, possibly because they were away on holiday or working.

Kye Dudd, the city council’s cabinet member for housing services, said on Wednesday that the structural issue meant the building would be at risk if there was a fire, a blast or a collision. Speaking on BBC Radio Bristol, he said: “Given that we had five fires in high-rise blocks last year in terms of the level of risk that is not acceptable. We couldn’t take the risk.”

Dudd said a problem with the “concrete sections and how they are tied to the supporting walls” had been found. “If the building was built to design we wouldn’t have this problem. The issue was in the construction of the building and the job that was done at the time. It wasn’t built to the design spec so that’s the problem we’re dealing with. Even if it had been built to the standards of 1958 or 1959 we’d probably be OK. It looks like an error in the construction of the building.”

His comments open up the possibility that the building has been a danger to its residents for more than six decades. Dudd said he received a report on the issue on Monday from a structural engineer after three of the building’s 98 flats were investigated. At that point the city council began to prepare for the possibility of an evacuation.

After a meeting with the fire service on Tuesday it was decided at 2pm to order the evacuation. Dudd said if they had more time they would have got people out gradually and would have been able to communicate more effectively with residents of the 15-storey block. He added: “We took the decision we really had to get people out.”

The council will carry out investigations on more flats, which involves drilling into walls. It is not able to say how long people might be out – or even whether they will ever be allowed back in.

There were confused and emotional scenes at Barton House on Tuesday night. The roads were jammed with cars as people tried to get away. A bus arrived to take away people who did not have their own transport. Some people said they would not leave while others were worried about what to do with pets.

Shaban Ali, a Barton House resident, said on X that residents were in a “state of shock, panic, disbelief”.

One resident who refused to leave because she had pets in the block said on Wednesday: “I’ve nowhere to go. I didn’t sleep very well.”

When it was built, Barton House was the tallest building in the south-west of England.

There were rumours that other blocks could be evacuated but the council said the design and age of Barton House made it unique within its estate. “There is currently no evidence to suggest the issues identified within Barton House are present elsewhere.”

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