Austin Williams

When will the Tories get a grip on the post-Grenfell construction chaos?

(Credit: Getty images)

It’s been more than six years since the Grenfell Tower fire killed 72 people and made many more homeless, yet the survivors – and families of those who died – are still waiting for answers. The Grenfell Inquiry, which launched a few months after the disaster, was meant to hold people to account, to question the management and design of high-rise buildings and to rebuild trust. Yet the only tangible results so far seem to have been the £70 million paid to an army of lawyers.

The Inquiry has been labelled a ‘never-ending circus’ by the British-Nigerian novelist, Jendella Benson. It’s a description that is hard to disagree with. And while the Inquiry trundles on, a different kind of crisis is looming large. In the wake of the Grenfell disaster, there is widespread confusion about regulation within the building industry. Architects and builders are struggling to keep up with the latest rules and they fear what new and confusing regulation might be around the corner. Prioritising the safety of residents is, of course, paramount. But this chaos doesn’t help anyone – and it is helping to exacerbate the housing crisis, with little benefits to either Grenfell victims or others who live in high-rise flats.

Suspicion is now the watchword. Litigation is the default

The real human tragedy of Grenfell must never be forgotten and no one should seek to diminish its impact. But we must also realise that we are witnessing a significantly increased paranoia in the construction industry linked to the revelations of the Inquiry: hikes in insurance premiums, increased market volatility, mortgage uncertainty, leaseholder debt stretched to breaking point, and the lowest level of house-building since the war. The Inquiry and those involved in the construction industry, from architects to developers, remain oblivious to these negative impacts at their peril.

One problem is that the Inquiry has made an art out of blame.

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