Government to consider pulling down Grenfell Tower

Grenfell Tower
Grenfell Tower (PA Wire)
16:43pm, Tue 11 May 2021
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The Government has said that it needs to consider if and when Grenfell Tower should be “carefully” taken down.

In a letter, which was posted on social media on Tuesday, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said that it will be at least a year before any decision on the future of the tower is implemented.

This will be after the fifth anniversary of the the blaze at the tower block in west London in June 2017 that claimed 72 lives, it added.

The letter, signed by Alistair Watters, director of the Grenfell site and programme at the MHCLG, said: “Following important advice from structural engineers about the condition of the tower, we need to consider this summer if, and when, the tower should be carefully taken down to maintain safety.

“This is so that we can plan for this as part of the ongoing safety works taking place within the tower.

“I want to reassure you that it will be at least a year before we begin to implement any decision, which means there will be no change to the tower before the fifth anniversary in 2022. The work of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry will continue during this period.”

The letter, dated May 7, said that people will be invited to in-person and online meetings this month to hear from the MHCLG’s Grenfell site team and structural engineers.

It added: “We want to ensure bereaved families, survivors and residents have access to the information that will inform a decision on the tower before it is made.

“Later this month, and after we have been able to discuss it with you first, we will publish the information that will inform a decision on the tower.”

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “Following important safety advice from our structural engineers, we now need to sensitively consider what the future of the Grenfell Tower will be, drawing on expert advice.

“We know how important and sensitive this decision is, and we continue to engage with those most affected at every step.

“No final decision has been taken and we will carefully take into account the views of the community.”

We have been deeply let down by the Government excluding the Social Housing White Paper from the Queen’s Speech

The letter comes as Grenfell United, a group of survivors and bereaved relatives from the Grenfell Tower fire, said it felt “deeply let down” that the Social Housing White Paper was not in the Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech on Tuesday announced that ministers will establish in law a new Building Safety Regulator to “ensure that the tragedies of the past are never repeated”.

But in a statement Grenfell United said: “We have been deeply let down by the Government excluding the Social Housing White Paper from the Queen’s Speech.

“Ministers have missed a massive opportunity to help right some wrongs for social housing tenants across the country.

“We have waited long enough for change. We are just a month away from the fourth anniversary of the Grenfell fire.

“Ministers must remember how neglect of tenants had contributed to the catastrophe that killed 72 of our loved ones and neighbours, and commit to doing the right thing.”

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “As confirmed in the Queen’s Speech today, the Government is bringing forward the biggest improvements to building safety standards in a generation, alongside major reforms to support tenants.

“This includes our charter for social housing residents, that will provide faster and more effective redress for residents, strengthen consumer regulation and improve the quality and safety of social housing.

“We remain committed to legislating as soon as practicable but we are already driving forward implementation of the charter so that residents don’t have to wait to see a real difference on the ground.”

Meanwhile, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry heard that architects had been appointed to the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower without council officials checking they had any experience with high-rise buildings.

Giving evidence on Tuesday Laura Johnson, who was director of housing at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, said she would have expected Studio E, the architects for the refurbishment of the 24-storey block, to have had the requisite experience or found an expert who did.

She said: “I did not know whether Studio E had any experience in high-rise buildings but I would have expected, bearing in mind that they had taken an approach on the KALC [Kensington Aldridge Academy and Kensington Leisure Centre] project where they had an architect working on the leisure centre who did have the appropriate experience, if they didn’t have the skills that they could bring them in.”

When asked if she had questioned whether the firm had the experience or expertise needed, she said she did not remember asking.

She added: “It seems to be something that would be completely obvious to ask Studio E to present their credentials to undertaking refurbishment of residential projects but at the time I did not take that step.”

When asked if the decision to appoint Studio E was to make cost savings and to make its “aesthetic” integrate with the new school and leisure centre being built next door, she said: “It did not have anything to do with Studio E’s track record of undertaking refurbishment projects on residential properties.

“It had to do with economies of scale, it had to do with linking it to the KALC project and it was also about doing two very large projects in a very small area and getting the benefits of the same design team doing them both.”

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