GRENFELL TOWER INQUIRY – Phase 2 Opening Statements

by ukcivilservant

It must have been heart-rending to listen to the lawyers representing the organisations responsible for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment.  Astonishingly – or maybe not? – only one of them accepted that their client had made any mistakes. The BBC’s inquiry podcast recounted how representatives for the bereaved survivors and residents reacted as follows:-

Sam Stein:

  • “The companies responsible killed those 72 people as sure as if they’d taken careful aim with a gun and pulled the trigger.
  • Those companies responsible killed when they criminally failed to consider the safety of others.
  • They killed when they promoted their unsuitable dangerous products in the pursuit of money and a place within the market.
  • And they killed when they entirely ignored their ultimate clients, the people of the Grenfell Tower.
  • When hearing the evidence about these companies and when watching them wriggle on the hook during these hearings, let us not forget who they killed and the bereaved who have been left behind.”

Stephanie Barwise:

  • “The behaviours of arrogance and complacency which caused the disaster at Grenfell still rage unchecked among many of the core participants.” …
  • “They either did not think about compliance at all or many of those who did address it seemed to have understood what was required and ignored it.
  • This is one of the more troubling emerging themes. That many of the professionals and contractors wilfully failed to comply with the regulations or statutory guidance despite being fully aware of and understanding the guidance”.

What about the local council?  They were the only group clearly to recognise that were responsible for failings in their actions:  The BBC reported as follows:

… So, finally, we come to the people who were meant to check the design met building regulations. Building control was a department within the local council, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It represents the last opportunity to spot the errors of a design team and stop the unsafe design being built.

RBKC’s legal representative read from a long list of Building Control’s failures.

  • “Building Control did not have a formal procedure for tracking the progress of applications for building control approval.
    • There was no requirement for it to have such a procedure, but the Council accepts that building control should have had one, and that had one been in place it would have reduced the likelihood of aspects of the application or the building control approval process being overlooked.
  • Building Control failed to issue a decision notice following receipt of the full plan’s application.
  • Building Control failed to ask for comprehensive details of the cladding system including the crown.
  • The last Exova fire safety strategy received by Building Control was Issue 3 dated November 2013. Building Control failed to request an up to date version of this document.
  • Building Control failed to identify that the insulation materials used in the cladding system were not of limited combustibility and therefore did not satisfy the requirements of Approved Document B.
  • Building Control failed to recognise that insufficient or no cavity barriers to seal the cavities and openings in the walls, including around the windows, had been indicated on the plans submitted to it.
  • Building Control issued a completion certificate on the 7th of July 2016. It should not have done so.
  • The council apologises unreservedly for these failings.”

RKBC also pointed out that the same cladding material used on Grenfell has been found on hundreds of buildings across the country. They argue this last line of defence has not just failed in their borough.

“This is not just a local problem this is a national problem and it will require national solutions.”

Martin Stanley
Editor – Understanding Regulation
and – The Grenfell Tower Fire