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Grenfell residents’ call for fire safety checks refused five weeks before blaze

A request by Grenfell Tower residents for an independent review of fire risk to the building was refused just five weeks before the deadly blaze.

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Grenfell residents’ call for fire safety checks refused five weeks before blaze

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Leaked emails, seen by Inside Housing, show a group of leaseholders at the tower made the request to Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) in April.

It followed a dispute about works which were being carried out on the building by the National Grid.


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These works involved the National Grid entering the property and installing new gas pipes which ran through the communal areas, raising safety fears from tenants.

On 30 April, the Grenfell Tower Leaseholders’ Association emailed senior figures at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and KCTMO calling for six specific actions in relation to this work.

This included an “independent investigation by [an] independent adjudicator, health and safety inspector and fire brigade inspectors funded by RBKC and KCTMO”.

But in its response on 5 May, KCTMO told residents it would not investigate further.

“The National Grid has confirmed that the work it has undertaken meets with fire safety requirements,” it said. “We have sought the views of the fire brigade and KCTMO’s fire safety consultant, both of whom have confirmed the works meet necessary standards and are appropriate in the context of fire safety at Grenfell Tower.

“We do not see it necessary to instruct or fund an independent adjudicator at this time.”

At least 80 people are known to have died in the fire which engulfed the building just five-and-a-half weeks later. Flames spread up the outside of the tower, with smoke spreading internally.

Residents had also written to the London Fire Brigade (LFB) about the work by the National Grid.

The email, sent on 17 March, read: “Could you please as a matter of urgency visit the Grenfell Tower and provide us [with] the health safety report and its [sic] [of] paramount importance that the building is safe from fire risk hazard?”

There is no evidence the work by the National Grid contributed in any way to the blaze. Its gas distribution arm has previously said work to box in the piping was still underway when the fire occurred, and that the pipes were made from welded steel and designed with fire resistance in mind.

Communal areas of the building were fire risk assessed by CS Stokes and Associates in 2016 following the completion of KCTMO’s refurbishment of the building.

The public inquiry into the fire begins on 14 September.

A spokesperson for KCTMO said it could not comment due to the forthcoming inquiry.

A spokesperson for LFB added: “Utility companies are usually responsible for the safety and maintenance of service pipes.”

It said it could not comment further due to the inquiry.

Never Again campaign

Never Again campaign

Inside Housing has launched a campaign to improve fire safety following the Grenfell Tower fire

Never Again: campaign asks

Inside Housing is calling for immediate action to implement the learning from the Lakanal House fire, and a commitment to act – without delay – on learning from the Grenfell Tower tragedy as it becomes available.

LANDLORDS

  • Take immediate action to check cladding and external panels on tower blocks and take prompt, appropriate action to remedy any problems
  • Update risk assessments using an appropriate, qualified expert.
  • Commit to renewing assessments annually and after major repair or cladding work is carried out
  • Review and update evacuation policies and ‘stay put’ advice in light of risk assessments, and communicate clearly to residents

GOVERNMENT

  • Provide urgent advice on the installation and upkeep of external insulation
  • Update and clarify building regulations immediately – with a commitment to update if additional learning emerges at a later date from the Grenfell inquiry
  • Fund the retrofitting of sprinkler systems in all tower blocks across the UK (except where there are specific structural reasons not to do so)

We will submit evidence from our research to the Grenfell public inquiry.

The inquiry should look at why opportunities to implement learning that could have prevented the fire were missed, in order to ensure similar opportunities are acted on in the future.

 

READ MORE ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN HERE

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