Almost 900 people living in a six-block development in London are being moved out immediately because of serious safety concerns relating to the construction of the buildings.
The residents, the majority of whom are students, were told at 11am on Monday that they would have to leave their homes on the Paragon site in Brentford, west London, which is owned by the housing association Notting Hill Genesis.
Some will move into nearby hotel accommodation from Monday, while others will be moved into student halls. Dozens of those affected are self-isolating due to Covid-19.
The housing association said the move followed expert advice that the construction of the buildings may be putting residents at risk.
It said all residents living in Paragon “will be asked to leave immediately in order to protect their health and safety while further investigative work is undertaken”.
A series of checks, some carried out after the fire at Grenfell Tower, uncovered a plethora of structural and fire safety issues at the development that required further investigation.
It added that it had identified accommodation for everyone to move into this week, and was providing financial support to help residents. A total of 858 residents will have to move and, asked if it was possible that they may never move back in, the housing association said it was not able to give any commitments.
Located next to the M4, Paragon is made up of six blocks ranging from four to 17 storeys and is home to 688 students from the University of West London (UWL) and Imperial College London (ICL). There are also 105 shared ownership leaseholders living there, plus 65 people who pay a discounted rent as part of a scheme aimed at key workers and others.
The site was developed by Berkeley First, part of Berkeley Group, and contains 1,059 homes, though a number of student rooms have not been taken up this year.
The blocks were finished in 2006 and the site was acquired in 2009 by Notting Hill Housing, which became part of Notting Hill Genesis two years ago.
Kate Davies, the chief executive of Notting Hill Genesis, said: “We believe we have no choice but to ask people to leave their homes.”
She added: “I understand that Paragon residents may feel angry or alarmed by this news, as they have every right to be. This is a very distressing time, and we are genuinely sorry for the huge amount of disruption and uncertainty this situation will cause.
“This is a complex situation and we don’t yet have all the answers. We are working to uncover the full extent of the issues at Paragon so that we can provide residents with clarity about timescales, next steps and options as quickly as possible.”
The housing association said it was doing all it could to support the residents, and had been working with the two universities to arrange alternative accommodation for students to move into this week.
According to UWL, the number of students self-isolating was “fewer than 100”.
The housing association said the problem was “wider than a cladding issue”. The cladding at Paragon is not flammable – it is not the aluminium composite material cladding that helped spread the fire that killed 72 people at Grenfell Tower.
“Earlier building performance issues, together with fire safety issues related to the cladding and the subsequent new government guidance since the fire at Grenfell Tower, triggered a series of safety checks at Paragon undertaken by technical consultants, which have each revealed further problems with this development,” the housing association said.
A spokeswoman acknowledged the situation would probably be more unsettling for residents because of the Covid-19 crisis. In terms of those who were self-isolating, the spokeswoman said: “We will work with those individuals and take advice.”
About 500 UWL students are in the process of being relocated to “higher-quality and more modern” student accommodation several miles away in Wembley. It is understood ICL is looking to rehouse its affected students in its own halls.
UWL students’ union said its primary concerns were students’ physical safety and mental health.