Wednesday 20 September 2017

Council confirms it received complaints over Grenfell Tower refurbishment

Firefighters spray water after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block
Firefighters spray water after a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block
Former chairman of the tenancy organisation connected to Grenfell Tower, Reg Kerr-Bell

Alexander Britton and Henry Vaughan

A council has admitted it received complaints over the refurbishment of a west London tower block which has been ravaged by a deadly fire, after an action group said its warnings fell on "deaf ears" when it highlighted safety concerns.

The cause of the huge blaze which killed at least 12 people at Grenfell Tower in north Kensington is not yet known.

But residents had been concerned about safety, and Grenfell Action Group said in a blog post in November "only a catastrophic event" would expose the issues.

Asked whether the council had received complaints and was acting on them, the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Borough, Nick Paget-Brown, said: "I think that's going to have to be looked at in even more detail during the investigation behind this.

"But it is perfectly true that Grenfell Tower underwent a major refurbishment programme starting about two and a half years ago to improve the hot water system, to improve the heating, to improve insulation, put in new windows, new external cladding, to improve the quality of life for people who were living there.

"Now clearly when you do that there are difficulties, problems, complaints, logistics to resolve and it is undoubtedly the case that the council received some complaints about the way the work was being conducted.

"But we will need to look much more closely at how much of that corresponds to the cause of today's fire."

The tower block was recently refurbished at a cost of £8.7 million, with work completed in May last year.

Former chairman of the tenancy organisation connected to Grenfell Tower, Reg Kerr-Bell
Former chairman of the tenancy organisation connected to Grenfell Tower, Reg Kerr-Bell

The exterior of the 1970s-built tower was modernised with cladding and replacement windows, while additional homes were added using vacant space in the building.

Read more: Grenfell Tower Block blaze: Death toll rises to 12 - What we know so far

Management of the tower was passed from the council to the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation in 1996 after the tenants and leaseholders voted to manage their own homes.

The organisation said in a statement on its website: "It is too early to speculate what caused the fire and contributed to its spread. We will co-operate fully with all the relevant authorities in order to ascertain the cause of this tragedy.

"We are aware that concerns have been raised historically by residents. We always take all concerns seriously and these will form part of our forthcoming investigations. While these investigations continue with our co-operation, our core priority at the moment is our residents."

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