Politicians warned ‘several times’ about cladding fire risk to London tower

Politicians warned ‘several times’ about cladding fire risk to London tower
Questions are mounting over opportunities that were potentially missed to prevent the deaths caused by the Grenfell Tower fire, after it emerged that ministers had been warned several times about the cladding used in the building’s regeneration.

Fires in France, Australia, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the US have been linked to the aluminum composite panels used on the outside of the building.

Eyewitnesses of the west London tragedy have suggested that the fire spread quickly through the facade of the building because the cladding contained flammable polyethylene or a plastic core.

Three years ago, leading fire safety expert Arnold Tarling warned a meeting of the British Standards Institute that “this type of cladding fire” would soon take place in Britain and that it would lead to a large number of deaths.

Government fire safety advisor, Brian Martin, attended the event.

“There will be countless other buildings in the UK covered in that material,” Tarling told the Telegraph.

“We need to change building regulations, and we need to change the people who are advising government,” he added.

In the 1990s, the Home Office was also shown a damning report concerning hundreds of tower blocks across the country, but nothing was done.

Leading that study was architect Sam Webb, who told the Guardian that half of the buildings failed basic fire safety checks.

“We discovered a widespread breach of safety, but we were simply told nothing could be done because it would ‘make too many people homeless,’” he told the paper.

“I really don’t think the building industry understands how fire behaves in buildings and how dangerous it can be. The government’s mania for deregulation means our current safety standards just aren’t good enough,” he added.

Labour MP David Lammy branded the Grenfell catastrophe “corporate manslaughter” and demanded that arrests be made.

One of Lammy’s family friends is missing following the disaster.

“This is the richest borough in our country treating its citizens in this way,” the Tottenham MP said on BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Thursday morning.

“We should call it what it is – it’s corporate manslaughter, that’s what it is – and there should be arrests made, frankly,” he said.

The newly elected Kensington and Chelsea MP, Labour's Emma Dent Coad, is a longtime housing activist. She told the Guardian, the Grenfell disaster is "unforgivable." 

"I can’t help thinking that poor quality materials and construction standards may have played a part in this hideous and unforgivable event," she told the paper.

"The council want to develop this area full of social housing, and in order to enable that they have prettified a building that they felt was ugly ... The idea that that has led to this horrendous tragedy is just unthinkable.”

Residents groups had time and again warned the borough council and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO) that the building was a deathtrap.

Virginia, a local resident, told RT she was “angry” at KCTMO after watching many of her friends living in the building affected by the devastating fire.

“There’s no fire alarm, there’s no sprinkler, and there’s only one way in and one way out,” the local surgery worker said.

“They [KCTMO] should have listened to the residents, because we’ve been complaining for years. They never listen to what we have to say,” she added.

She also thought the lack of action by the government was deplorable, as little was learned from the similar Lakanal House fire in Southwark in 2009.

“If [the government] had acted on it, they would have had sprinklers in [Grenfell Tower] and fire alarms,” Virginia added.