Hundreds of residents will be evacuated from their high-rise flats after an investigation revealed their homes may not be safe.
The gas supply to 242 flats in Ledbury Towers, south London was cut off with immediate effect on Thursday.
Southwark Council said while it appreciates the move is “inconvenient” to those living in the Peterchurch, Bromyard, Skenfirth and Sarnsfield blocks, it is “not willing to take any risks”.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, concerns over cracks in the buildings were raised by residents, and structural engineers Arup were instructed to investigate their cause, the authority said. It was during Arup’s investigation that an historic issue was also raised surrounding the gas supply to the four blocks – which was installed when they were built in 1968 to 1970.
A letter sent to residents announcing the decision, states that in 1968 the similarly constructed Ronan Point in Newham partially collapsed after a gas explosion – prompting blocks around the UK to be made safe to carry a supply of the fuel.
Stephanie Cryan, deputy leader and cabinet member for housing at Southwark Council, said records suggest the four blocks were strengthened following the Ronan Point incident. “Arup’s structural investigations suggest this strengthening may not have occurred, and we have therefore turned off the gas, until further investigations can be done,” she said.
“We are doing all we can to provide residents with alternatives while the gas is turned off, and are working up a plan to permanently replace the gas with electric ovens, boilers etc as part of the wider works, should that be necessary.
“We have also written to the Department of Communities and Local Government to inform them of this issue, as it may well have implications for other blocks around the country that were constructed in this way.”
The letter sent to residents of the blocks states the council had hoped to allow them to remain in their homes while the work to fix the cracks was carried out.
It added: “But this new information means we are now planning to temporarily decant the blocks over the coming weeks and months.” The authority said there are no plans to evacuate residents immediately or over the coming week, but said that if the process to sort alternative power for the buildings is taking too long they may need to offer alternative accommodation.
In the short term Southwark Council said it is immediately providing temporary hotplates to residents so they can prepare meals, and are looking to install single electric water heaters in every flat.
The authority also said that those living in the block can access free shower facilities at any of Southwark’s leisure centres.