Inquiry resumes this week with further evidence from fire safety expert Barbara Lane
The government is expected to confirm this month that the Grenfell Tower will be demolished next year because of safety fears, although it is unclear whether this will be before or after the fifth anniversary in June.
The Sunday Times reported yesterday that ministers are close to a decision that the tower must come down early next year, sparking anger among the bereaved who said they had not been properly consulted.
It was already known that the government decision was due by the end of September.
An MHCLG-commissioned safety report published by Atkins in May last year concluded there was “unanimous agreement and unambiguous advice from all the technical experts and engineers involved in the Grenfell project that the tower should not be propped for the medium- to long-term but should be deconstructed at the earliest possible opportunity, with deconstruction commencing no later than May 2022. This advice is based on protecting the safety of those working in and living around the tower”.
Those at potential risk are reported to include occupants of the Kensington Aldridge Academy which was designed by Studio E alongside the architect’s refurbishment of the flats next door.
Atkins’ report went on to say: “The level of the damage is so extensive that the recommendation of the engineer (Michael Barclay Partnership) in March 2019 was to demolish the building as a minimum down to 10th floor.
“This advice has been reiterated on a number of occasions including in a letter from the Dangerous Structures Surveyor in August 2020. Subsequently, as technical advisor to the MHCLG, Atkins in July 2020 and December 2020 have reiterated the need to deconstruct the tower at the earliest opportunity primarily due to the significant fire damage but also as a consequence of the on-going deterioration.
“The Health and Safety Executive is aware of these recommendations and is supportive of any action to ensure the stability of the building and the safety of the wider community.”
But the government promised the community in an information leaflet this spring: “There will be no visible change to the tower before the fifth anniversary in 2022.”
In the same document it said it would make its decision about the future of the tower in August or September after listening to representations.
It said: “If a decision is made to follow the engineers’ recommendation to start to deconstruct the tower next year, a specialist deconstruction company will be appointed. They will develop a detailed plan for how the tower can be carefully taken down in the most sensitive and considerate way.”
The remains of the tower are currently being stabilised by principal contractor Deconstruct UK, with mor than 4,500 props.
There are many views locally on what should happen to the remains of the block of flats which was engulfed by fire on June 14, 2017, killing 72 people. Some favour turning it into a vertical forest inspired by the work of Italian architect Stefano Boeri.
Grenfell United, which represents survivors and families of those who died, said the government had engaged with fewer than 10 families.
In a statement it said: “Many of the Grenfell community accept the removal of the tower will always be a case of when not if, but the timeline needs to be decided by the … community.”
The group said it had received previous assurances that the tower could be kept safe for as long as it needed to be and that it posed no risk.
The statement added: “Given the limited legislation passed since the Grenfell fire to keep people safe in their homes, the glacial process of removing flammable cladding, and the daily reports of the links between the government and the construction industry, it seems to us that removing Grenfell from the skyline while the inquiry and police investigation still continues only serves those accused or those that haven’t acted.”
Thee Grenfell Inquiry is to resume after its summer break tomorrow afternoon, hearing evidence from expert witness Dr Barbara Lane, a fire safety expert at Arup.
An MHCLG spokesperson said: “We know how important and sensitive this decision is, and no decision has been taken. Following important independent safety advice from structural engineers, we are engaging closely with the community as we consider the evidence including the safety concerns raised, and what the future of Grenfell Tower should be.
“We have now published this advice to ensure those most affected have access to the information that will inform a decision on the tower, before one is reached.”