London

Concerns raised about Grenfell Tower 'for years'

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Media caption'We reported concerns... they weren't investigated'

The residents of Grenfell Tower had reportedly raised fire safety concerns for several years before the blaze that engulfed the block of flats in west London on Wednesday, according to a community action group.

The claim comes as London Fire Brigade said there had been a "number of fatalities" at the tower block.

Grenfell Tower in north Kensington was completed in 1974 in the brutalist style of the era, comprising 120 flats over 24 storeys.

It received a £10m refurbishment in 2015-16 with the work being carried out by Rydon Construction as part of a £67m borough wide regeneration project.

The firm said it was "shocked to hear of the devastating fire", adding the work "met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards".

The tower is managed by Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation on behalf of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

What work was carried out?

The regeneration of the tower block included extensive remodelling of the bottom four floors, creating nine additional homes.

Improvements were also made to communal facilities for the residents and improved spaces for two local businesses.

The exterior was modernised with rain screen cladding, believed to have included thermal insulation, and replacement windows, while curtain wall facades, a new heating system and smoke extract and ventilation system were also installed.

Grenfell Tower, North Kensington

  • 127 flats

  • 24 storeys

  • 20 residential levels

  • 4 mixed levels of community areas and residential flats

  • 2016 refurbishment completed

AFP

How safe was the tower block?

The residents of Grenfell Tower had raised fire safety concerns four years prior to the tower block fire.

In February 2013, Grenfell Action Group warned fire safety equipment had not been tested for 12 months.

The group published an extract from a 2012 fire risk assessment which found that fire extinguishers in the basement boiler room, lift motor room and ground floor electrical room were more than 12 months out of test date.

Others located in roof level areas had "condemned" written on them in large black writing and had not been tested since 2009.

Image copyright Twitter

The tower block was given a medium fire risk rating - defined as a normal fire risk - in 2016 by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) and Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council following the refurbishment.

But residents warned the tower block remained a fire risk. In a further blog posting in November 2016, the action group stated it believed "only a catastrophic event" would bring an end to the dangerous living conditions at the tower block.

The group association further alleged residents were given scant information about what to do in the event of a fire.

They claimed "a temporary notice stuck in the lift and one announcement in a recent regeneration newsletter" informed them they should remain in their flats in the event of fire.

"There are not and never have been any instructions posted in the Grenfell Tower notice board or on individual floor as to how residents should act in event of a fire," the blog posting added.

'Awful tragedy'

The leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Nick Paget-Brown, told BBC News: "It's truly horrifying - it's a terrible day in Kensington's history. It's an awful tragedy.

"When I arrived the flames were covering several storeys and it was moving very quickly, so there needs to be a thorough investigation into why this fire started and why it spread so quickly.

Image caption Nick Paget-Brown said the tower had been refurbished to make it more energy efficient

"There was a refurbishment [at Grenfell], we are refurbishing many of our 1960s and 1970s estates, the idea being to improve the heating and hot water systems, to install better windows, improve the insulation, make them more energy efficient, new cladding on the outside.

"We will clearly need to examine that and look and what was done and what standards were applied, and if they were followed and met.

"I think there are issues about towers and residential towers, and how they are refurbished and what measures are in place to evacuate the building. We will need to have a look at all of that."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Residents had raised concerned about fire risks four years before refurbishment work was carried out
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Grenfell Tower was refurbished in 2015-16 at a cost of £10m

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