UK

London fire: Flats acquired for Grenfell Tower survivors

Grenfell Tower Image copyright AFP

Sixty-eight social housing flats in Kensington, London, are to be made available to survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, the government has said.

The one, two and three-bedroom flats are located in two blocks that stand alongside a large luxury development, where private homes go for up to £8.5m.

At least 79 people died and many more were left homeless after fire engulfed the North Kensington tower a week ago.

PM Theresa May has apologised for "State" failures after the blaze.

"People were left without belongings, without roofs over their heads, without even basic information about what had happened, what they should do and where they could seek help," she told MPs in the Commons.

"That was a failure of the State - local and national - to help people when they needed it most.

"As prime minister, I apologise for that failure."

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Media captionTheresa May on Grenfell fire: "As prime minister I've taken responsibility"

Mrs May is expected to make a statement about the fire in the Commons on Thursday.

There has been widespread anger from Grenfell Tower residents at the slow and chaotic response from authorities after last Wednesday's devastating blaze.

On Wednesday, protesters demanding "justice for Grenfell" marched with anti-government protesters through London.

But Justice4Grenfell, a group which supports Grenfell residents, stressed it had not organised any of the events and urged protesters to have the victims and bereaved "foremost in their minds".

A spokesman for the ClementJames Centre, another support group, accused protesters of hijacking residents' grief for political purposes.

Image copyright AFP

Meanwhile, the funeral of 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali, who was among the first victims of the fire to be named, has taken place.

His family, who arrived from war-torn Syria, and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan attended the ceremony, called a Janazat, at an east London mosque.

'United by his body'

His family said: "His very last words to us were how much he missed us.

"Ever since he moved away from us, we tried to be united with him and his brothers, and now, instead, we have been united by his body."

Image copyright Syria Solidarity Campaign
Image caption Mr Alhajali became separated from his brother as they tried to escape

A number of inquests were opened and adjourned on Wednesday, with the coroner finding:

  • Retired lorry driver Anthony Disson, 65, died from inhalation of fire fumes
  • Farah Hamdan, a 31-year-old nursery nurse, died from smoke inhalation
  • Her husband, Omar Belkadi, 32, who worked as a courier, died from inhalation from fire fumes
  • Abufars Ibrahim, a 39-year-old shopkeeper, had been visiting his mother in the tower. The coroner said he had been found at the foot of the building and died from multiple injuries
  • Khadija Khalloufi, a 52-year-old married woman, also died from inhalation of fire fumes

Grenfell residents heading to Kensington Row

Image caption Work on the private homes is already complete

By Jennifer Scott, BBC News

Nestled off Kensington High Street, and a short distance from Westfield shopping centre, Kensington Row is the perfect example of London's booming real estate market.

It's £700 a week to rent a one-bedroom flat - for that price you get to live in the same borough as Prince William and Simon Cowell.

Builders are beavering away to finish the new blocks for the incoming residents, whilst placards that surround the site promise you can "find yourself in the clouds" after you move in.

You get a true feel for the development from the flats already completed.

On the hottest day of the year so far, the sun reflects off balconies and glass panels onto the tree-lined street and busy main road. The flats all have the luxury finish you would expect of this area - but of course the social housing blocks won't have the same trimmings.

George, a Kensington resident for 30 years, said his new neighbours would be welcome.

"In times of disaster, the communities in both the north and south of this borough come together," he said. "The survivors and their families will be looked after."


Since the fire, some Grenfell Tower families have been staying in hotels and B&Bs, and there were concerns that more permanent housing would be offered in other parts of the country.

But Kensington Row complex is just over 1.5 miles from Grenfell Tower.

It includes a 24-hour concierge service and a private cinema, the website of developer St Edward says, but it is thought unlikely the new tenants from Grenfell will have access to such facilities.

Each new home in the two blocks set aside for social housing will be fully furnished and completed to a high-specification, the government said.

Image caption St Edward has taken on extra builders to speed up completion of the work to the social housing blocks

The flats are expected to be ready by the end of July.

Yvette Williams, from Justice4Grenfell, said the promise of new flats was a good thing if it gave residents a permanent home but it had come "very late".

A small number of Grenfell residents were still sleeping in rest centres set up in the aftermath of the fire, one week on, she said.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said extra public money had been found so the flats could be fitted out more quickly, and more builders had been taken on.

It said the "expectation was that these new properties would be offered as one of the options to permanently rehouse residents from Grenfell Tower".

Image copyright Berkley Group
Image caption Some Grenfell residents will be housed in the brick-clad building on the right, seen in this artist's impression

The homes will be bought and managed by the City of London Corporation, and handed over to Kensington and Chelsea Council.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said Grenfell residents had been through "some of the most harrowing and traumatic experiences imaginable".

"Our priority is to get everyone who has lost their home permanently rehoused locally as soon as possible, so that they can begin to rebuild their lives," he added.