Posts Tagged ‘building regulations’

Grenfell Six Months On – 2017

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

Today it is four and a half years after the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower which began early in the morning of 14th June 2017, killing 72 people and injuring over 70 others. And many or all of those who escaped will suffer from both physical and mental effects of the night for the rest of their lives, as too will many of the firefighters and other emergency workers.

The pictures here come from the monthly slow and silent walk to demand justice and remembering those killed at Grenfell Tower six months after the fire on Thursday 14th December 2017.

The fire was an event waiting to happen, and warnings of the danger by residents and neighbours had been ignored by the building managers. The reasons the fire spread as it did were almost immediately obvious and rapidly published including the report by Architects For Social Housing, The Truth about Grenfell Tower which came out around five weeks later.

Rather than take action against those responsible, a public inquiry was set up, and began three months later. It’s main effect has been to delay justice, and its first sessions and report were largely devoted in trying to shift blame on to London Fire Brigade, whose efforts on the night had showed incredible determination and bravery.

Cuts in the London Fire Service made by Boris Johnson when he was London Mayor had left them both understaffed and under-equipped, while earlier privatisation of some of the fire inspection and certification allowed dangerous conditions of buildings including this to go unchecked. The LFB did not have a suitable fire engine for dealing with the high rise fire, and one had to be brought from Surrey.

Governments of both parties over the years had weakened the regulations and inspections in the name of ‘cutting red tape’, responding to lobbying from the building industry, which allowed both highly flammable cladding to be use, and also for it to be incorrectly installed without essential safety gaps.

With tall blocks that meet proper safety standards a fire like this which began with a faulty refrigerator in a single flat would have been contained within that single flat. Many such fires have taken place and been contained, sometimes with most other residents of the building being completely unaware of them. Had Grenfell not been wrongly fitted with unsuitable cladding this would have been the case here, though there were also other problems particularly with the stairways and dry riser that made escape and fighting the fire much more dangerous.

Had the LFB been aware of the problems they were to face things would have been very different (and they would have called for the building to be shut down and the faults rectified.) But they arrived at the fire ignorant of the many defects, and were met with a situation which was for them unprecedented. With hindsight it is possible to say they could have made a decision to go against all their training on fires in tall blocks and try to evacuate the building earlier, but I think it unfair to blame them for not doing so.

The public inquiry continues, and has shed some more light on the details of the crimes that led to those 72 deaths, but seems mainly to have been taken up by those eager to shift responsibility from their actions to others.

Tonight, 14th December 2021, four and a half years later, another silent walk will take place, gathering at Kensington Town Hall at 6pm to start at 6.30pm. This is the first for 18 months due to Covid. The invitation from Grenfell United states:

“We invite you to join us on our Silent Walk in our campaign for Justice.

To show those responsible we are not going anywhere until we have real Change and Justice. So another Grenfell never happens again.”

Grenfell United

More about the walk in 2017: Grenfell Silent Walk – 6 months on


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Fire Risk Tower Blocks

Thursday, August 12th, 2021

Newham 12 August 2017

Ferrier Point, Canning Town

In the now over four years since the disastrous Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 there has been little change and no reckoning, with a tediously slow inquiry taking place that began by shifting blame unfairly onto the firefighters but is at last making clear some of the deliberate failures by local government, manufacturers and installers of the fatal cladding and others with a complete disregard for the safety of those living in the tower.

Cladding was not of course the only issue, and there were many other failings that led to the terrible loss of life. Most basic was the attitude of governments of both parties towards health and safety issues, describing essential safety regulations as “red tape” and dismantling what were essential checks to increase the profitability of builders and developers and reduce the liabilities of building owners. It was a system that needed reforming and strengthening, perhaps learning from practice in other countries to provide effective control and not abandoning to commercial whim.

Most of what has emerged in the inquiry only reinforces what was already made clear from informed reports – such as that by Architects for Social Housing – within weeks of the fire, adding truly shameful detail to the broader outline. It surely should have come out in courts within months of the fire and some of those responsible might well be behind bars and companies charged with massive fines, and the main point of the inquiry seems to be to prevent the course of justice.

A resident of Tanner Point speaking

Local authorities and building owners have been forced to inspect their high-rise properties, and the government has provided at lest some of the money it promised to replace unsafe cladding in the public sector. But little has been done for those living in private blocks who are still living in fear and now pay increased charges for extra fire safety provisions. A parliamentary briefing paper estimates the total cost of replacement of unsafe cladding at around £15m, and so far government has come up with a third of that. Government policy has changed from the initial promise to fund “remediation of historical safety defects, to a suggestion that leaseholders should be protected from unaffordable costs” and even the provision for a low interest scheme to ensure they would not pay more than £50 a month has failed to materialise despite the promise in the current Building Safety Bill.

In August 2017, a number of tower blocks in the London borough of Newham were found to have unsafe cladding. Housing activists Focus E15 Mothers led a demonstration putting pressure on the council to act urgently to make the blocks safe. The council came to a decision the following month to remove the cladding though work to do so only began in April 2018.

The march began at Ferrier Point in Canning Town, with other groups including East End Sisters Uncut, Movement for Justice, the Socialist Party, the Revolutionary Communist Party, One Housing campaigners and Whitechapel Anarchists joining Focus E15 and some tower block residents.

From there they marched to Tanner Point in Plaistow North for a longer rally outside, including some speeches from tower residents. Then came another long march to Stratford and the Carpenters Estate.

The Carpenters Estate was a popular estate, close to Stratford station and the town centre, and was viewed by the council as a prime opportunity for highly profitable redevelopment schemes, wanting to demolish the estate which is well-planned and in good condition. Focus E15 led opposition that in 2013 ended plans for UCL to set up a new campus here and have constantly urged the council to bring back people to the estate where despite a critical housing shortage in the borough, 400 good homes had been kept empty for over 10 years. The march ended with a ‘hands around the Carpenters Estate’ solidarity event against decanting, demolition and social cleansing.

More pictures at Fire Risk Tower Blocks.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.