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Grenfell Tower Inquiry Release Delayed Again

Thursday, May 23, 2019

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The release of the public inquiry surrounding the 2017 fatal Grenfell Tower fire in London has been delayed yet again—this time until October.

The report, which was initially slated to be published this spring, examines what happened that night, when a fire broken out and killed 72 people.

Those that participated in the inquiry received letters from solicitor Caroline Featherstone, which said that reaching conclusions was proving to be a “far more complex and time-consuming task than originally anticipated.”

Some Background

The 24-story, 120-home apartment building caught fire June 14, 2017, and had recently undergone a $12.73 million renovation that was completed in the spring of 2016, which is largely believed to be responsible for why the fire spread so quickly.

Natalie Oxford, CC-BY-4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The release of the public inquiry surrounding the 2017 fatal Grenfell Tower fire in London has been delayed yet again—this time until October.

At that time, the building was refurbished with a system of polyester powder-coated aluminum rain-screen panels, insulated exterior cladding and double-glazed windows, as well as a communal heating system.

After the fire, a criminal investigation was opened by the Metropolitan Police Service.

In April of 2018, new investigations revealed that the cladding fitted on the Grenfell Tower had been downgraded before it was installed on the London high-rise. According to tests that BBC News uncovered from 2014 and 2015, a zinc cladding had originally been specified for the tower, but another brand was substituted for a savings of roughly $388,700.

The following month, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged $517.9 million to cover the replacement of unsafe cladding for social housing blocks. Privately owned towers were left to figure out the replacements on their own, however.

As a result, many property owners passed the renovation charges to residents, which in some cases cost them thousands of dollars to make their homes safe again.

More Recent Updates

By December 2018, the U.K. announced a ban on combustible materials. Housing secretary James Brokenshire announced that under the new legislation, combustible materials would not be permitted in the exterior walls for new buildings more than 18 meters (59 feet) tall.

ChiralJon, CC-SA-BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Now, Featherstone and chairman of the inquiry Sir Martin Moore-Black are saying the first phase won’t be published until at least October, though they maintain that the second phase of the inquiry—which is to specifically examine the refurbishment instead of the blaze itself—will still start at the beginning of next year.

The ban limits the use of materials to products that achieve a European fire-resistance rating of Class A1 or A2. The legislation also cleared up what exactly the government meant by an “exterior wall.”

By March 2019, the police continuing investigations into the blaze stated that it was likely that no charges would be pressed until the public inquiry was complete in 2021.

Most recently, May announced that the government will be funding the replacement of the cladding on the private high-rises, a cost which is projected at roughly 200 million pounds ($258.9 million).

What Now

Now, Featherstone and chairman of the inquiry Sir Martin Moore-Bick are saying the first phase won’t be published until at least October, though they maintain that the second phase of the inquiry—which is to specifically examine the refurbishment instead of the blaze itself—will still start at the beginning of next year.

Natasha Elcock, a former resident and the chairwoman of Grenfell United, calls the delay “disgraceful.”

“That we are only finding this out now, when we were expecting the report to be published ahead of the two-year anniversary, shows how they continue to disregard survivors and bereaved through this process,” she said.

“It took courage for survivors to give evidence in the first part of the inquiry. We put our faith in Sir Martin Moore-Bick to make change. Six months after hearing our evidence the inquiry is yet to make a single recommendation to keep people safe in their homes.”

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Fire; Good Technical Practice; Government; Health and safety; Renovation; Safety

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