Posts Tagged ‘fire safety’

Grenfell – 7 Years On

Friday, June 14th, 2024

Grenfell – 7 Years On: Seven years after the terrible fire that killed 72 people in Grenfell Tower and left many others traumatised we still have no justice. None of those whose deliberate actions and failures that set up this firetrap and made a disaster virtually inevitable has yet to be brought to court.

Grenfell - 7 Years On
Pictures here are from the first anniversary of the fire on Thursday 14th June 2018. You can see my account of this and more pictures on My London Diary.

Grenfell - 7 Years On

The inquiry dragged on and although it has ended taking evidence its final report has been delayed and delayed. Initially due in late 2023 it is now expected to be released in Autumn 2024, although that may well be delayed yet again.

Grenfell - 7 Years On

When it does come it will almost certainly be too little as well as far too late. Grenfell was a crime and the major criminals were obvious from the start. The inquiry – as it was always meant too – has tied the hands of the police in pursuing the criminals and bringing them to justice. It seems doubtful there will be many if any prosecutions and if they take place they are likely to be only for minor offences.

Grenfell - 7 Years On

I don’t think anything much of significance has emerged from the years of the inquiry that was not already evident in early reports on the fire – such as that published by Architects for Social Housing in July 2017, although we have some more detail. But the inquiry has mainly served as an opportunity for some involved to take part in buck-passing and blame others or to claim ignorance of the obvious.

And of course to generate considerable incomes for the lawyers, who have had a field day thanks to the excessive adversarial nature of the inquiry. The delays in publishing the report are all down to the inquiry having to consult with those who are named in it. We urgently need a streamlined process for such inquiries – and this should almost certainly involve prosecutions of the more obvious criminals before the inquiry begins.

But although the grass has grown longer, Grenfell Tower is still there as a reminder of the terrible events which began which shortly before 1am on Tuesday, 14 June 2017. Although by the first anniversary in 2018, from which the pictures here come, its scarred and blackened bulk had been hidden by white sheetong. But at the top was a grey panel with a large green Grenfell heart and the message ‘Grenfell – Forever In Our Hearts‘.

As I wrote in 2018, “Some felt it should have been left standing uncovered – particularly as the disaster was caused by covering up the building to make it look nicer for the academy at its base. Without that covering the fire would have been a minor incident with no loss of life.”

I continued “The academy in front of the tower was also built without proper regard for access for fire engines to fight the fire when it happened. To make things worse, Boris Johnson had cut the fire service drastically and they no longer had the equipment to fight the fire in the upper stories – it had to come from Surrey – and successive governments had removed regulations and cut safety inspections (they called it ‘red tape) which would have prevented the inferno.”

Here are the details from the Grenfell United web site of the 7th Anniversary Silent Walk:

Join us at the Silent Walk on 14 June 2024 to mark 7 years since the Grenfell Tower Fire. We will gather at the Nottinghill Methodist Church from 6pm and the walk will begin at 6:30pm. There will be speeches and a call to justice at the end.

Please walk in silence with us to show those responsible we are not going anywhere until we see justice.

Grenfell United

You can see more from the first anniversary walk in 2018 at Massive Silent Walk for Grenfell Anniversary Among those taking part were both then Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott.


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Fire Risk Tower Blocks

Saturday, August 12th, 2023

Fire Risk Tower Blocks – On Saturday 12 August 2017 Focus E15 Mothers led a march from Ferrier Point in Canning Town to a rally at Tanner Point in Plaistow pointing out the danger of these two blocks with the same cladding as Grenfell Tower, and then on to the Carpenters Estate in Stratford demanding safe homes, not social cleansing in East London.

Fire Risk Tower Blocks

The May 2022 Fire Risk Assessment of 119-205 Butchers Road, Canning Town conducted for Newham Council was obtained by a Freedom of Information request and can be downloaded. The 11 floor block of 43 flats has a single staircase and then had 86 people sleeping there.

Fire Risk Tower Blocks

The report by Phoenix Green Group declared the likelihood of fire to be ‘Medium’ but the potential consequences would be ‘Extreme Harm’ and gave the building a ‘Substantial’ fire risk rating, stating that urgent action should be taken and listing what was needed. I can find no information on Newham Council’s web site of whether this has been done, or of other council properties which might still be needing urgent action.

Fire Risk Tower Blocks

The block on Butchers Road was not one of those visited on the march led by Focus E15 Mothers in their march around Canning Town and Plaistow to the Carpenters Estate in Stratford. This had begun at Ferrier Point in Forty Acre Lane, Canning Town around 5 minutes walk away, a rather taller 23 storey block with dangerous ACM cladding like that on Grenfell Tower.

Fire Risk Tower Blocks

The cladding on Ferrier Point was replaced with non-combustible cladding in 2019. Otherwise there would have been a very different story when fire broke out on a 12th floor flat there around 6pm on 22nd June 2020. By the time the Fire Brigade arrived at 6.22pm around 150 residents had left the building and the LFB had the fire under control by 7.45pm. Six people required treatment for smoke inhalation, one in hospital the others treated on the spot by London Ambulance staff.

Tanner Point in Plaistow was another stop on the march where residents were extremely worried as this also had fire-risk ACM cladding. Along with that on Nicholls Point, a little off the march route, this was also replaced in 2018-9.

The march was organised and led by the Stratford-based Focus E15 housing campaign but supported by other groups, including the Socialist Party, East End Sisters Uncut, the One Housing campaign, Movement for Justice, Whitechapel Anarchist Group, the Revolutionary Communist Group and local residents, including those from the blocks with dangerous cladding.

The march ended on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, a once popular estate with over 400 empty homes which Newham’s Labour council largely emptied of people over 10 years ago and intended to demolish and sell off. Here there was a ‘hands around the Carpenters Estate’ solidarity event against decanting, demolition and social cleansing.

Events like this put pressure on Newham Council to speed up the removal of unsafe cladding from its taller tower blocks, but it seems there are still fire safety issues in other blocks that it owns. Years of actions by Focus E15 and others have stopped Newham selling off the Carpenters Estate and they are now going ahead with regeneration plans although these unfortunately lack the real commitment to social housing that the area so desperately needs.

More about the march and more pictures on My London Diary at Fire Risk Tower Blocks.


Remember Grenfell – Demand Justice

Tuesday, June 14th, 2022

Remember Grenfell – Demand Justice -Five years today on from the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower, still none of those whose criminal acts led to it has been brought to justice. The inquiry stutters on, filling in some of the details but pushing hopes of any action further and further into the long grass. So far its only result has been to unfairly pillory the London Fire Brigade who faced an unprecedented situation for which they were ill-equipped with heroism.

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

On the first anniversary of the disaster I went to the Massive Silent Walk for Grenfell Anniversary that began close to the tower and joined the marchers, taking photographs but also expressing my own shock and sympathy for the victims and disgust at the failure of the local and national government and our legal system both in making the fire almost inevitable and in failing to support the victims.

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

I’m sorry I’m not able to attend today’s march in North Kensington, but some months ago I agreed to give a talk tonight, failing at the time to recognise the significance of the date. So I’ll wear my green scarf on Zoom as I talk about rather happier things. But little has changed over the years and what I wrote back in 2018 still holds true, with little real changes and rather than repeat myself I’ll quote it here.

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

“The blackened and scarred bulk of Grenfell Tower has now been hidden by white sheeting, at its top a grey panel with a large green Grenfell heart and the message ‘Grenfell – Forever In Our Hearts’. Some felt it should have been left standing uncovered – particularly as the disaster was caused by covering up the building to make it look nicer for the academy at its base. Without that covering the fire would have been a minor incident with no loss of life.”

“The academy in front of the tower was also built without proper regard for access for fire engines to fight the fire when it happened. To make things worse, Boris Johnson had cut the fire service drastically and they no longer had the equipment to fight the fire in the upper stories – it had to come from Surrey – and successive governments had removed regulations and cut safety inspections (they called it ‘red tape) which would have prevented the inferno.”

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

“The blackened and scarred bulk of Grenfell Tower has now been hidden by white sheeting, at its top a grey panel with a large green Grenfell heart and the message ‘Grenfell – Forever In Our Hearts’. Some felt it should have been left standing uncovered – particularly as the disaster was caused by covering up the building to make it look nicer for the academy at its base. Without that covering the fire would have been a minor incident with no loss of life.”

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

“The academy in front of the tower was also built without proper regard for access for fire engines to fight the fire when it happened. To make things worse, Boris Johnson (as London Mayor) had cut the fire service drastically and they no longer had the equipment to fight the fire in the upper stories – it had to come from Surrey – and successive governments had removed regulations and cut safety inspections (they called it ‘red tape) which would have prevented the inferno.”

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

“Firefighters lined both sides of Ladbroke Grove as a guard of honour for the march and were kissed and hugged by many. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott and local Labour MP Emma Dent Coad and some Labour London Assembly members were among those who took part in the silent walk, which ended in a local park. I left the march before it arrived there as it had been made clear the press were not welcome there.”

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

“People stop to shake hands and thank the fire-fighters. Some embrace them. While some papers and middle-class commentators try to shift blame onto the firefighters, the community has
no doubt that they are heroes who did far more than could be expected, some going back five times into the burning building. They didn’t clad it with highly combustible material, ignore obvious safety issues pointed out by residents, engage ‘experts’ to avoid proper fire inspections.”

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice
Jeremy Corbyn and local MP Emma Dent Coad wait their turn to shake the hands of the firefighters

You can read my fuller account of the walk on June 14th, 2018 with many more pictures and captions on My London Diary at Massive Silent Walk for Grenfell Anniversary

Remember Grenfell - Demand Justice

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.


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