Latest Public Sector News

18.04.18

Whitehall must ‘urgently change rules’ in light of leaked Grenfell findings

The fire that consumed Grenfell Tower would not have spread beyond the flat of origin had the original façade of the building not been re-clad, a report has concluded.

According to the report, leaked to the London Evening Standard, the cladding material and insulation were combustible, and there were “deficiencies” in the construction of the façade which allowed the fire to spread.

Identified in the report are five breaches of building regulations which contributed to the tragedy that killed 71 people.

The cavity barriers, intended to expand and seal the gap between the surface of the building and the cladding insulation in the event of a fire, were not only of “insufficient size,” but some were also found to be installed upside down or back to front.

As a result, the gap between the cladding and the concrete surface “provided a route for fire spread.”

The window frames were found to be too narrow, leaving gaps that were filled with substances that the report said would not even be capable of providing 30 minutes of fire resistance.

The leaked report also revealed that there was an absence of door closers on the front doors to many flats – a contravention to building regulations – which meant that many were left open when residents fled, contributing to the spread of smoke and fire.

Grenfell United said that the findings of the report were not surprising, and that it was clear to them that the refurbishment was “shoddy and second rate.”

It added: “We raised concerns time and time again. We were not just ignored but bullied to keep quiet. That a refurbishment could make our homes dangerous and unsafe shows that the contractors put profit before lives.

“It’s an industry that is broken. It’s also an industry that has been allowed to get away with this behaviour.”

A spokesperson for Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council said: “We think the public inquiry and the police investigation are the right places for testing all the evidence as a whole.

“The council is clear – we have handed over thousands of documents – we are committed to finding the truth. We hope full disclosure of all the evidence, tested by the inquiry judge, will deliver the answers to ensure this never happens again.”

Lord Porter, chair of the LGA, called on the government to urgently change to the rules so that all material in cladding systems on complex and high-rise buildings must be non-combustible.

We have already been clear that desktop studies should no longer be a route to compliance and we continue to raise questions about the BS8414 testing process,” he continued. “Using non-combustible material only would provide clarity to all types of landlords who remain unsure about what they should use to re-clad and insulate their buildings.

“The tragedy at Grenfell Tower must never be allowed to happen again. Non-combustible cladding systems would help keep buildings safer.”

Top image: Rick Findler PA Wire

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