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Rydon manager brands Grenfell residents who complained about fire safety ‘aggressive’

The contracts manager for Rydon during the Grenfell Tower refurbishment described residents who raised complaints about fire safety and cladding as “vocal and aggressive” at the inquiry today.

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Simon Lawrence addresses the inquiry (picture: Grenfell Tower Inquiry)
Simon Lawrence addresses the inquiry (picture: Grenfell Tower Inquiry)
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At the inquiry today, the contracts manager for Rydon described residents who raised complaints about fire safety and cladding at Grenfell as “vocal and aggressive” #ukhousing

Rydon manager brands Grenfell residents who complained about fire safety “aggressive” #ukhousing

Today, Simon Lawrence, who led the work on the tower for design and build contractor Rydon, was taken through various emails about complaints, including one where he referred to “rebel residents”.

He revealed he had been tipped off by building manager Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) that “there were several vocal residents and one of which could be extremely vocal and was quite well known by the TMO”.

Pressed by counsel for the inquiry, Richard Millett, Mr Lawrence confirmed this was a reference to Edward Daffarn – a contributor to the Grenfell Action Group blog, which famously warned of a fire before the disaster in June 2017.

Giving evidence to the inquiry, Mr Lawrence said: “I felt there were several very vocal, dare I say it aggressive, residents that in my opinion regardless of what work was being carried out would still have found a reason to complain.”


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He was shown an email from Mr Daffarn in September 2014 raising concern that residents have been “given no choice or opportunity to comment on the windows or cladding that we are to receive”.

Another email, sent to London Fire Brigade, raised concern about firefighter access to the site, it said: “Please can you ensure that the fire brigade will monitor the changes on Lancaster West Estate that impact on our fire safety and could you also inform us where we should assemble in the event of a fire?”

Another complaint from Mr Daffarn related to a broken self closer on a fire door, with police evidence demonstrating it was still broken on the night of the fire. No record of any response from Mr Lawrence was found.

In another email, Mr Lawrence briefed KCTMO on options for installing ‘heating interface units’ (which controlled water to each flat from the communal boiler) inside kitchens or on hallways – a topic of particular concern for many residents.

In it he wrote: “I’ve not mentioned the need to fix through asbestos ceilings for the pipework boxing… I assume you don’t need to be questioned on this by Mr Daffarn.”

Asked if this was an attempt to hide the asbestos issue, he said: “The moment asbestos is mentioned, whether it’s safe to be left in place or not, would be another matter for Mr Daffarn to complain to the TMO.”

“If his complaint is justified, what’s wrong with that?,” asked Mr Millett.

“That’s between the TMO and Mr Daffarn,” replied Mr Lawrence.

The inquiry saw another email from resident David Collins in which he directly accused Mr Lawrence of responding to mess left by workers in his flat by saying “why should I believe anything you say anyway” and “implying that I could be making this up for my own agenda because I have an axe to grind”.

Mr Lawrence said he “did not recall the specific conversation” but said he thought it was “not correct” because “that’s not how I would act with a resident”.

The inquiry also saw minutes where Rydon acknowledged a need to “increase our levels of courtesy” and complaints made to local councillors that the firms workers were “very aggressive and threatening towards them”.

“I thought we were always courteous with the residents,” said Mr Lawrence. He left Rydon in 2015.

Later, Mr Lawrence was questioned about concerns raised in 2015 and 2016 that Rydon was not sufficiently on top of its budget or quality control of the work.

In an email on 9 May 2016, Neil Reed, a consultant for Artelia, which advised KCTMO, wrote: “This is becoming a farce. Despite all our efforts to ensure a smooth landing, I have to say I do not think I have ever worked with a contractor operating with this level of nonchalance.”

A year earlier, in May 2015, Mr Reed had emailed Mr Lawrence to “set out our frustrations with Rydon’s performance on this project” and noted the lack of quantity surveyors and lack of responses to queries about changes.

On 22 June 2015, Mr Lawrence emailed his boss at Rydon and said: “At the moment we have a poor-performing site which is mainly but not totally caused by poor surveying and cheap incompetent subcontractors.”

He said today: “I think that’s just me having a vent.” He said he could not recall which subcontractor he was referring to.

The inquiry also heard about the decision to use highly combustible insulation to fill a gap around the new window sets installed during the refurbishment, which went against the design specification and building regulations.

In his phase one report, inquiry chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick singled out the new windows as a flaw which allowed the fire to spread out of the fourth floor kitchen where it started and ignite the cladding and noted that the “configuration and materials of the windows” gave a “disproportionately high” chance of this happening.

The new windows for the tower were insulated with Celotex TB4000 and Kingspan Thermapitch. Both are combustible and the Celotex had a fire rating of F – well below the minimum standard of A2.

The inquiry saw that non-combustible mineral wool insulation had been included in the original specification for the tower.

The windows were fitted by a subcontractor SD Plastering but the organisation was not given design any responsibilities, which meant that, as Mr Lawrence accepted, this responsibility fell to Rydon.

He said: “I think as a team we agreed that was the way forward. I don’t think there was a formal approval process.”

He added: “I don’t think we were cognisant that there were regulations relating to the window linings internally and we were doing a process we had always done at Rydon,” he said. “We thought it was an aesthetic finish product.”

Combustible insulation is very widely used in window sets in high rises across the country and has been linked to multiple fires which have spread up buildings.

Other emails seen by the inquiry show that Mr Lawrence blasting an early attempt at the window replacement carried out in a show flat as “a disaster”.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry continues.

Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase two: weekly diaries

Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase two: weekly diaries

Module one

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

Module two

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full 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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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

Click here to read the full story

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.

Click here to read the full story

Week 26: 'You were taking an enormous risk, weren't you?'

Week 26 at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry was a key moment in understanding how dangerous products used on the tower came to be accepted by industry professionals. Dominic Brady reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 27: ‘What will happen if one building made out [of] PE core is in fire and will kill 60 to 70 persons?’

The most explosive evidence this week at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry came from those who did not attend, as the evidence which would have been presented to Arconic witnesses was displayed in their absence. Peter Apps reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 28: ‘This is a serious safety matter’

This week the Grenfell Tower Inquiry zeroed in on the British Board of Agrément, the body that produced “misleading” certificates which inspired trust in both the cladding and insulation used on the tower. Lucie Heath reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 29: ‘Is it true that Kingspan’s position… was to do its best to ensure that science was secretly perverted for financial gain?’

The final week in this section of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry primarily examined the attempts by insulation manufacturer Kingspan to lobby government after the fire. Peter Apps reports

Click here to read the full story

How the products used in Grenfell Tower's cladding system were tested and sold

As the section of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry examining how the products used in the cladding system were tested, marketed and sold comes to a close, Peter Apps summarises what we have learned about each of the products included in the system

Click here to read the full story

Module Three

Week 30: ‘There is certainly a high probability that in the event of a fire the whole building can become an inferno’

The focus of the inquiry shifted this week to the actions of the social housing providers responsible for maintaining Grenfell Tower. Pete Apps recaps what we learned

Click here to read the full story

Week 31: ‘If we cannot get out people will die’

This week saw the former residents of Grenfell Tower enter the witness box to tell of their experiences attempting to raise complaints with the council and its managing agent. Pete Apps reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 32: ‘Let's hope our luck holds and there isn't a fire’

This week saw the return of the landlord of Grenfell Tower, Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), as senior staff members attempted to explain how vital fire safety protections at the block were allowed to fall into disrepair. Lucie Heath reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 33: ‘Isn't that a serious gap in the scope of a policy meant to safeguard vulnerable people?’

A slightly disjointed week at the Grenfell Tower inquiry saw further evidence from staff at building manager Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) interspersed with the views of a cladding expert. Peter Apps reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 34: ‘Some members of the community are doing their best to spread false information’

Jack Simpson covers all the major revelations from the past week of evidence at the Grenfell Inquiry, including evidence from Laura Johnson, director of housing at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Click here to read the full story

Week 35: ‘I really didn’t like the champagne’

This week the Grenfell Tower Inquiry saw council witnesses, including former deputy leader Rock Feilding-Mellen and leader Nicholas Paget-Brown, questioned about their role in the story for the first time. Peter Apps reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 36: ‘Is that not a very incurious approach for a fire risk assessor?’

This week the Grenfell Tower Inquiry scrutinised the work of Carl Stokes, the man hired to carry out fire risk assessments for the block. Nathaniel Barker reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 37: ‘In giving that advice, weren’t you acting beyond your knowledge and expertise?’

A curtailed week at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry saw fire risk assessor Carl Stokes grilled over advice he gave regarding the tower’s cladding. Peter Apps reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 38: ‘Well it’s a bit more than that, isn’t it. He’s suggesting that you tell the LFB a lie’

The inquiry heard the mammoth cross-examination of KCTMO’s health and safety manager Janice Wray this week. Peter Apps reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 39: ‘What you said there was a grotesque understatement’

This week the inquiry continued to hear from former employees of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, as well as two employees from the London Fire Brigade. Lucie Heath reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 40: ‘An exercise in concealment and half-truth’

Former KCTMO chief executive Robert Black gave his evidence to the inquiry this week and was asked to account for the various failures described over the previous six weeks. Peter Apps and Nathaniel Barker report.

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Week 41: ‘We should do nothing. This is not the sort of website we should be responding to’

This week saw the return of Robert Black, chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), before the inquiry turned its attention to the defective smoke control system in the tower. Dominic Brady reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 42:‘They would leak as much as they leaked. They were what they were’

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry continued its in-depth investigation of the tower’s non-compliant smoke control system this week, with evidence from the various contractors involved in delivering it. Pete Apps reports.

Click here to read the full story

Week 43:‘Contractors at the time were not generally aware of the importance of leaving holes unsealed’

This week the inquiry focused on two of the more overlooked areas of the Grenfell Tower fire, with evidence focusing on the gas pipelines and lifts within the west London block. It was a packed week, with five witnesses giving evidence. Jack Simpson reports

Click here to read the full story

Week 44:‘I've never seen a fully compliant firefighting lift in any local authority building, to this day actually’

This week the inquiry turn the focus onto the building’s defective lifts, with evidence from an expert, contractors who worked on them and a former engineer at KCTMO. Pete Apps reports.

Click here to read the full story

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