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Sunday20 August 2017

Grenfell inquiry must examine role of building professions, says former London housing chief

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Jenny Jones draws attention to ‘shocking similarities’ with Lakanal blaze

The public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower must look at whether “inaction” by the government or building professions was responsible for the tragedy, said Green peer Jenny Jones.

She said there appeared to be “shocking similarities” between Wednesday’s fire and the one at Lakanal House in Southwark in 2009 which killed six people.

Jones, who was chair of the London Assembly’s housing and planning committee at the time of the Lakanal fire, commissioned an assembly report into the safety of tall buildings which was published with a series of recommendations in December 2010. 

Jones welcomed the prime minister’s announcement yesterday that there would be a full public inquiry into the west London blaze which is so far known to have killed more than 30 people.

This morning Scotland Yard was reported to be opening a criminal investigation into the tragedy.

In a statement issued last night Jones said: “The remit of the public inquiry must include an examination of whether any of the lessons of the Lakanal fire have been learnt. And whether inaction by the government or the building professions led directly to the Grenfell tragedy?

“It was clear in 2009 that the system of fire safety checks was not working properly and inadequate building regulations relating to the outside panels was partly responsible for the rapid spread of the fire.

“Those doubts continued to be expressed in the years after the Lakanal House fire as recommendations made by the inquest were not properly followed through. There appear to be shocking similarities between the causes of deaths in the two fires. Instead of changes being made and the government saying ‘never again’, we have the horror of Grenfell.

“The Lakanal fire highlighted the lack of coordination between contractors and the local authority. The complaints of residents indicate similar problems may have hindered the refurbishment process at Grenfell and that must be looked at.

“The inquiry must not only put the tenants centre stage and give them a voice but also ask whether tenants across the country need to be given new rights to access information and be part of the decision-making and monitoring process.”

 

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Readers' comments (10)

  • The appalling tragedy at Grenfell Tower: Reports suggest that everything was in compliance with Building Regulations, yet the screen visible on the Council's own Building Control website indicates the 'full plans' application decision/approval date is 'not available' and the status is 'Completed, not approved'. So how was a completion certificate issued before residents moved in and who signed it off?

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  • It says on the K&C website "People searching for application FP/14/03563 please note that the status ‘Completed Not approved’ does not mean that the work was not approved under the Building Regulations. The formal signing off of the work was provided by a completion certificate and not by a full plans decision notice, which was not required in this case."

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  • I recall watching a television documentary in the 1990s which dealt with the dangers posed by aluminium cladding where the core was made of polyurethane, I recall. The insulation was flammable and fire could spread in cavities, unseen and undetected. Dangers associated with this type of cladding have been known about for a long time. One insurer referred to this type of insulation as “solid gasoline”.

    Of course, if it deemed acceptable by the building regs then it will be specified especially in low budget projects such as social housing.

    It reminds me of some of the issues raised by the Hillsborough disaster and the “unlawfully killed” verdict. The Daily Mail seemed very keen about the fact that the Police might be prosecuted. But the stadium’s design definitely contributed to the disaster. The stadium did seem to have been designed with a very clear intention to prevent pitch invasions. But this would be like an architect designing a building without fire escapes. How do you evacuate the building in case of dangerous overcrowding? Building control must have approved the designs?

    Ultimately, those who pass legislation defining what is a legal minimum standard of safety for buildings have a massive responsibility for the safety of occupants.

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  • who submitted building control application ,Studio E ?
    did Rydon have D&B contract ??
    was building control done by private company employed by Rydon ??
    do London Fire Brigade get involved in building control pro actively ?

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  • I wonder whether BBA Certs will get the blame for the Grenfell Tower disaster, because they approved cladding panels without testing them for fire in the situation they would be used. I have long argued that they show undu bias in return for fat sums of money. My specialism is waterproof concrete and there are BBA certificates for products that do nothing. But certification is a money tree when specifiers have to use products certified in Britain.
    BBA don't appreciate their responsibility. Someone there should go to jail. I hope that the H&S Exec thoroughly investigates their part in this tragedy.
    Phil Sacre
    www.waterproofconcrete.co.uk

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  • Another project which needs immediate investigation ....

    http://www.rydon.co.uk/what-we-do/refurbishment/case-studies/refurbishment-case-studies/lea-bridge-house

    Same project, same architect, same cladding?

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  • Sunshine, Architect in the sense of the firm, or Architect in the sense of an individual person registered with ARB?

    Because the latter did not it seem do Grenfell House...it was a graduate.

    I hope the firms PI cover is well up to date as questions of supervision will be coming thick and fast, not least from ARB (I hope).

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  • Good point sunshine...AND Ferrier Point and the Chalcots, different architect but these go into the higher risk realm that is > 30m

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  • @terencechatfielduk, "it was a graduate." What do you mean?

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  • Clichy

    @terencechatfielduk
    The responsibility as 'architect of record' lays with the company
    Studio E.
    It is specious, and vicious, to try and delegate the responsibility to an employee as you are attempting to do.

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