The company that managed Grenfell Tower considered the retrofitting of sprinklers in its high rises in the aftermath of a previous deadly tower block fire but never pursued it, as doing so would have been “very complicated”, the inquiry heard today.
Peter Maddison, former director of assets at Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), was asked about a board meeting in May 2013 when the organisation discussed the recommendations of the inquest into six deaths at a fire in Lakanal House.
These recommendations included an encouragement to fit sprinklers in high-rise blocks and a call for government to review building guidance with particular regard to the risk of external fire spread.
Inside Housing has previously been leaked a report from this meeting, which suggested that the organisation did not act after it was given a tip-off by central government officials that they would not become mandatory.
This report was not shown to Mr Maddison today, but he was asked to explain what action the organisation took in relation to sprinklers.
“I think there was a consideration given to it,” he said. “I think there was a conversation with London Fire Brigade… there was a report back from the fire brigade and it was a very complicated issue which hadn’t been given full consideration in a practical sense: how that could be designed, how that could be delivered and how that could be afforded.”
A briefing note on sprinklers, which was disclosed by the inquiry today, said: “A number of other landlords most notably Southwark have commissioned feasibility studies, however they have confirmed there is no resource to fund this.”
Asked by Richard Millett, lead counsel to the inquiry, whether money was a “stumbling block” in this decision, Mr Maddison replied: “I don’t think we ever got as far as how much it would be and some of the other issues around how to do it. There wasn’t a full, considered approach.”
On external fire spread, the KCTMO briefing note said: “Whilst we cannot be sure how [the Department for Communities and Local Government] will respond to these recommendations it is considered unlikely that they will make existing recommendations more onerous, especially if this requires landlords to undertake significant as yet resourced work.”
The other document, previously leaked to Inside Housing, shows that this went further, specifically noting that “initial indications from [the Department for Communities and Local Government] are that these recommendations are unlikely to be taken up” and “will not become mandatory”.
Mr Maddison was asked today whether “it was fair to say that because you didn’t have to do it you didn’t do it”.
He responded: “That’s a fair enough thing to say that but it was probably a bit more complicated than that.”
No requirement for retrofitting sprinklers was ever introduced by central government and the suggested review of building guidance had not been completed by the time of the fire at Grenfell Tower.
Mr Maddison also said today that he was aware of a letter from the London Fire Brigade sent in May 2017 – just weeks before the fire – which raised concerns about fire safety in the aftermath of a fire at a high rise in Shepherd’s Bush.
This letter – which was also previously leaked to Inside Housing – listed risks from combustible materials on external walls and said: “I would therefore strongly urge that you consider this issue as part of the risk assessment process for premises under your control.”
Mr Maddison was not asked about the revelation that he has been withholding diaries relating to the fire, as his solicitors have told him he will need new representation on this point.
He will be asked about this issue at the conclusion of his evidence, which continues tomorrow.
Week one: A vivid picture of a broken industry
After a week of damning revelations at the opening of phase two of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Peter Apps recaps the key points
Week two: What is the significance of the immunity application?
Sir Martin Moore-Bick has written to the attorney general requesting protection for those set to give evidence at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. Peter Apps explains what the move means
Week three: Architects of misfortune
This week saw the lead architects for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment give evidence to the inquiry. Peter Apps runs through the key points
Week four: ‘I didn’t have any perception that it was the monster it’s become’
The architects continued to give evidence this week, outlining a lack of understanding of the fire risk posed by the cladding materials and its design. Nathaniel Barker reports
Week five: ‘No adverse effect in relation to external fire spread’
As the Grenfell Tower Inquiry returns from its long absence, Peter Apps recaps the key points from a week of important evidence from the fire consultants to the refurbishment
Week six: ‘I can’t recall any instance where I discussed the materials with building control’
Nathaniel Barker summarises what we learned from fire engineers Exova, architects Studio E and the early evidence from contractor Rydon
Week seven: ‘I do not think I have ever worked with a contractor operating with this level of nonchalance’
Two key witnesses from contractor Rydon gave evidence this week. Peter Apps recaps some of the key points from a revealing week of evidence
Week eight: ‘It haunts me that it wasn't challenged’
Four witnesses from contractor Rydon gave evidence this week. Lucie Heath recaps what we learned on the last week of evidence before the inquiry breaks for five weeks
Week nine: ‘All I can say is you will be taken out for a very nice meal very soon’
This week the inquiry heard evidence from witnesses at Harley Facades, the sub-contractor responsible for Grenfell Tower’s cladding. Peter Apps recaps the key points
Week 10: ‘As we all know, ACM will be gone rather quickly in a fire!’
As the Grenfell Tower Inquiry entered its 10th week, Jack Simpson recaps the key points from a week of important evidence from the refurbishment’s cladding contractor
Week 11: ‘Did you get the impression Grenfell Tower was a guinea pig for this insulation?’
With witnesses from the cladding subcontractor, the firm which cut the deadly panels to shape and the clerk of works which inspected the job giving evidence this was week full of revelations. Peter Apps recaps the key points
Week 12: ‘Would you accept that was a serious failing on your part?’
With the surveyor who inspected Grenfell Tower for compliance giving evidence, this was a crucial week from the inquiry. Dominic Brady and Peter Apps report
Week 13: ‘Value for money is to be regarded as the key driver for this project’
With consultants to Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) giving evidence, attention at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry turned for this first time to the actions of the TMO and the council. Peter Apps reports
Week 14: ‘Did it not occur to you at this point that your budget was simply too low?’
This week, for the first time in phase two, the inquiry heard from Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, the landlord that oversaw the fatal refurbishment of Grenfell Tower. Lucie Heath reports
Week 15: ‘Have you ever informed the police that you destroyed documents relevant to their investigation?’
Witnesses from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) gave evidence for a second week, which began with a shocking revelation about withheld and destroyed evidence. Peter Apps recaps
Week 16: ‘I conclude this was very serious evidence of professional negligence’
This week saw members of Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation finish giving evidence, before the inquiry’s expert witnesses took the stand to make some highly critical assessments of the work they had seen before and during the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower. Jack Simpson recaps
Grenfell Tower: a timeline of the refurbishment
Following the conclusion of module one of the Grenfell Inquiry’s second phase, Peter Apps presents a timeline of the key moments during the fatal refurbishment of the west London tower block
Week 17: ‘It’s hard to make a note about this because we are not clean’
The start of the second module of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase two came with some huge revelations about the companies that sold the products used in the cladding system. Peter Apps reports
Week 18: ‘It was just reckless optimism wasn't it?’
As the inquiry began cross-examining witnesses for the second module of its phase two work, the picture surrounding just how Grenfell Tower ended up wrapped in such dangerous materials became a little clearer. Nathaniel Barker was keeping an eye on proceedings
Week 19: ‘And that was intentional, deliberate, dishonest?’
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry this week heard the shocking story of how the insulation manufacturer “manipulated” official testing and marketed its product “dishonestly”. Peter Apps tells the story
Week 20: ‘We were outed by a consultant who we then had to fabricate a story to’
This week the inquiry investigated the actions of Kingspan – the manufacturer of one of the insulation products used in the tower’s cladding system. Dominic Brady reports
Week 21: ‘It’s there in black and white isn't it? We see a complete absence of any consideration of life safety’
The story of insulation giant Kingspan’s testing and marketing of its combustible insulation for high rises was unpacked in minute detail this week. Peter Apps reports
Week 22: ‘All we do is lie in here’
In the third week of evidence from insulation giant Kingspan, the inquiry continued to uncover shocking details about the firm’s behaviour both before and after the Grenfell Tower fire. Lucie Heath reports
Week 23: ‘That would have come as an earthquake to you at the time, would it not?’
This week the inquiry took its deepest dive yet into the inner workings of the cladding manufacturer whose product has been blamed for the terrible spread of fire up Grenfell Tower. Nathaniel Barker reports
Week 24: ‘Do you accept that Test 5B was Arconic's deadly secret’
The president of the firm that made and sold the cladding panels installed on Grenfell Tower was asked to account for the apparent concealment of “disastrous” fire tests on the product this week. Peter Apps reports
Week 25: ‘This is quite an incredible list of omissions and missed instances, isn’t it?’
This week the Grenfell Tower Inquiry heard its first witnesses from the Building Research Establishment (BRE) - the testing house which carried out key fire tests on the Kingspan and Celotex insulation products which were later used on Grenfell Tower. Peter Apps reports.
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