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

The building safety bill won’t end Britain’s cladding nightmare

The government’s Building Safety Bill has been a long time coming, but its publication today offers little certainty for residents caught up in Britain’s cladding scandal. For leaseholders, the bad news is this: many will remain trapped in buildings cloaked in combustible external wall systems. Despite the housing secretary Robert Jenrick’s insistence that the new system would ‘reassure the vast majority of residents’, there is little in the bill to alleviate their worries.  To throw more money at it will inevitably lead to more corners being cut and workers without the proper competence being drafted in The bill proposes the creation of a new Building Safety Regulator (BSR), although an interim regulator

The dark heart of the cladding scandal has been exposed

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry has exposed the dark heart of the building safety crisis in recent weeks, as it examined the role of cladding and insulation firms in causing the fire. We have learned that the products used in the tower’s cladding system were known to be severely flammable and that tests pointing this out were suppressed by the manufacturers as they chased lucrative contracts for high rise buildings. There is no underplaying the size of what has been revealed by this section of the inquiry. This is a monstrous corporate scandal, enabled by failures of some of the construction sector’s most respected institutions. The effects reach far beyond Grenfell,

The Tories’ cladding crisis fix falls short again

Most of the Conservative MPs who responded to Robert Jenrick’s statement this afternoon about an extra £3.5 billion to help with the cladding crisis sounded relieved that the government is finally doing something. But if ministers think that the response in the Chamber means they can relax, they are in for a bit of a shock. The two most active Conservative MPs on this issue are Stephen McPartland and Royston Smith, and neither spoke in the Commons after the announcement. But both have been critical elsewhere. McPartland called the policy – which will only offer loans to leaseholders in blocks between 11 and 18 metres high – a ‘betrayal’ and

Six ways the state failed to prevent the cladding crisis

Talk to anyone for long enough about the UK’s building safety crisis and you soon will be asked: why are we in such a mess? Why, in one of the wealthiest countries on earth with a functioning planning and regulatory system, are thousands of people currently trapped in homes built with dangerous and combustible materials? How could we have allowed so many unsafe buildings to be built, signed off, sold and inhabited for all these years? Like all questions of this scale, there are multiple answers which combine to form a complex picture. But while people are quick to draw conclusions about reckless builders cutting corners, there is less awareness

The most shocking moments from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry in 2020

In the past year, a series of horrifying details have emerged from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, as it began to examine the companies which manufactured and installed dangerous cladding and insulation on the tower block. Taken together, they point to an enormous corporate scandal. Below are seven of the most shocking revelations from the Inquiry this year: 1. ‘There is no point in fire stopping, as we all know; the ACM will be gone rather quickly in a fire’ This email, first disclosed in January, drew audible gasps from the public gallery when it was read out. It was sent by Daniel Anketell-Jones, design manager at the subcontractor Harley, which

The Grenfell Tower inquiry is uncovering a major corporate scandal

A picture of an enormous corporate scandal has emerged at the Grenfell Tower inquiry to little fanfare over the last three weeks. The mammoth inquiry has been slowly going through the evidence surrounding the build-up to the fire, which killed 72 people in June 2017. Until November, it had been examining the fitting of the deadly cladding system to the walls of the building. What the inquiry revealed was dispiriting but predictable: pennies were pinched, no one in an enormous chain of construction professionals took responsibility for key safety decisions, and the external oversight of their actions was almost non-existent. In recent weeks though, the tone of the inquiry changed,