Evacuated Bristol housing block ‘wasn’t built to design spec’ says councillor

The several hundred residents of Barton House, a 1958 housing block in Bristol Hill just east of the city centre, were told to leave the building immediately on Tuesday (14 November), after Bristol council declared a ‘major incident’.

The evacuation was triggered by a series of surveys on three of the 98 flats in the block. These concluded that a fire, explosion or large impact would pose a risk to the structure of the building.

A Bristol councillor has since said that the building ‘wasn’t built to the design specs’, and therefore had issues with its concrete sections, according to the BBC. The structural issues are not caused by reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

Kye Dudd, who is the council’s cabinet member for waste, energy, climate & ecology, said he briefed his team to ‘prepare for a potential emergency evacuation’ after seeing a report from a structural engineer on Monday which ‘looked really bad’.

Dudd said: ‘If the building was built to design we wouldn’t have this problem. The issue is within the construction of the building and the job that was done at the time. It wasn’t built to the design specs – that’s the problem we’re dealing with.’

He added: ‘We had to take the decision [to evacuate residents] with the information we had as the safety with residents is paramount.’


Barton House, a 1958 housing block in Bristol Hill just east of the city centre

Residents were reportedly told to pack enough clothes for a day or two and to stay with friends or family, or go to rest centres.

In a statement published by Construction Enquirer, Bristol city council said the evacuation had been carried out ‘to allow for further, more in-depth studies’ on the building, which is ‘the oldest of the tower blocks’ on the council-owned estate.

It added: ‘The length of this temporary arrangement is dependent on a further survey of the building, which is being arranged to happen as soon as possible.’

The council said tenants would be kept updated ‘regularly’ on progress of the survey as well as support arrangements. It added: ‘There is currently no evidence to suggest the issues identified within Barton House are present elsewhere [on Barton Hill estate].

ACORN Union, which specialises in renters rights and housing, reported the number of people needing permanent rehousing as up to 400. Posting on X (formerly Twitter), the Union described the situation as ‘very concerning’.