London Grenfell Tower residents raised concerns months before fire

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Residents raised concerns over fire safety last year

Building recently underwent an $13.2M refurbishment

London CNN  — 

Grenfell Tower was intended to be among the jewels of an $85 million (£67 million) urban regeneration scheme carried out by the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

But on Wednesday, as an enormous fire gutted the 24-story residential block, a series of questions were raised about its safety.

  • A local residents’ group had repeatedly expressed concerns about fire safety, going back several years.
  • The company that manages the tower on behalf of the local authority had placed fire safety policy across all of its housing stock under review.
  • Questions were raised about a recent refurbishment, which had included a replacement of the cladding on the outside of the building, although the principal contractor said all building and safety regulations had been met.

Originally constructed in 1974, the residential tower block had recently undergone a massive $13.2M (£10.3M) refurbishment carried out by private developers Rydon and completed in the summer of 2016.

According to the local authority’s website, these large-scale works included the installation of “insulated exterior cladding, new double-glazed windows and a new communal heating system, with the goal of improving energy efficiency.”

Notably, redevelopment of the building included provisions for improvements to the “smoke/fire safety and ventilation works.”

Warnings of ‘catastrophe’

However, in a blog post dated November 20, 2016, a residents group, the Grenfell Action Group (GAC), highlighted ongoing concerns among residents over the safety of the building, managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization (KCTMO) on behalf of the borough.

The blog post, published after completion of the refurbishment work, argued that only “a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord … and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.”

The post was the latest in a series that dated back to 2013. “We have blogged many times on the subject of fire safety at Grenfell Tower and we believe that these investigations will become part of damning evidence of the poor safety record of the KCTMO,” the post read.

In a statement on Wednesday, the management company acknowledged residents’ concerns. “It is too early to speculate what caused the fire and contributed to its spread. We will cooperate fully with all the relevant authorities in order to ascertain the cause of this tragedy.”

“We are aware that concerns have been raised historically by residents. We always take all concerns seriously and these will form part of our forthcoming investigations.”