Fire safety

Why disabled people will be forced to stay in burning high-rises

‘Grenfell is a story about a failed evacuation.’ These are the words of Professor Ed Galea, an internationally respected expert in fire safety and evacuations who, among other things, wrote a pivotal study into the attempted evacuation of the World Trade Centre on 9/11. But this is something the British state, and particularly the Home Office, appears utterly unable to accept. For decades, this country has relied on telling residents in burning tower blocks to ‘stay put’. This has been baked into the way we build our high rises: we require walls, floors and ceilings to effectively break the building up into a series of small, fire resisting boxes. This

The scandal of the government’s cladding cover-up

The Number 10 Christmas parties during lockdown have dominated the news agenda in recent days – and for good reason. But there has arguably been an even bigger government scandal brewing, one which has largely been overlooked in Westminster. On Tuesday the government told the Grenfell Tower Inquiry that it was ‘deeply sorry’ for the ‘past failures’ which contributed to the devastating 2017 fire which killed 72 people. Apologies always come in varying forms of breadth and sincerity and this one (as is often the case when delivered by an expensive QC) was carefully limited. The government said that it had assumed fire regulations were being monitored ‘at a local

Why isn’t the Tory party helping desperate leaseholders?

Marwa al-Sabouni is a Syrian architect who watched her home city of Homs destroyed during the Syrian conflict between 2011 and 2014. Out of that experience, she penned an  intensely moving and haunting account of what the idea of home means. She writes of how the dwellings we live in are intimately connected with our own sense of self: ‘Our homes don’t just contain our life earnings, they stand for what we are. To destroy one’s home should be taken as an equal crime to destroying one’s soul.’ It’s a statement that echoes the biblical vision of every person able to ‘live in safety, under their own vine and under their

Cladding risks creating a political crisis for the Tories

Today, for the third time in as many months, MPs will vote on an amendment to prevent the costs of removing cladding and fixing other fire safety defects being passed on to residents. For some time now, thousands of British homeowners have been left fearing for their lives and facing ruinous bills after fire safety issues following the Grenfell Tower fire were identified in tens of thousands of tall and medium rise buildings across the country. In most cases, building owners have been able to charge individual flat owners to fix the defects, even though their apartments were signed off as safe under government regulations at the time. The failure