Former Grenfell resident tells inquiry residents safety concerns “weren’t listened to”

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

A former resident of Grenfell Tower said there were so many concerns about the refurbishment of the 24-storey building in the years before the blaze that there were calls for an independent inquiry into the way it was run.

David Collins, who chaired the Grenfell Tower residents association said many who lived there were unhappy with the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation which looked after homes for the council.

He said the residents’ group was formed because of so many concerns about the building and the multi-million pound refurbishment.

Speaking via video link, Mr Collins said: “I got this sense that something wasn’t right at the Tower and people weren’t treated well, with respect.”

He lived in a flat on the 18th floor of the Tower from 2014 to 2016, a year before the fire in which 72 people died.

Mr Collins detailed some concerns including changes to floor numbers in the tower, as part of the refurbishment.

“It didn’t make sense. If you have a fireman looking for a flat he wouldn’t know the number of your flat. It was a crazy idea.”

He said residents raised their concerns many times.

David Collins giving evidence via video

Amongst other issues was the decision to change where heating units would be put.

“There was essentially no consultation about the matter. They told us it was going to be in a place where we didn’t want it. We believed there were going to be safety issues,” he said.

He described how one resident couldn’t use the bathroom but had to walk to Shepherd’s Bush to use one.

“How could you have a building where people live and you’re not even able to use the bathroom. It’s not real but it is. It’s a joke.”

However he said residents were not listened to and when ward  councillor Judith Blakeman took up issues on their behalf “she wasn’t listened to”.

He added: “We wanted to have a safe place to live and we weren’t met in that desire. We didn’t feel we were ever met in our desire for the tower.”

He was shown an email from the TMO’s Claire Williams who dealt with residents’ complaints.

It explained that chief executive Robert Black didn’t want to meet the Grenfell Community Unite, residents’ group in case it was a “showcase for Edward Daffarn” – a well-known resident who was at the centre of raising concerns about the tower.

The group was set up after 100 residents  met the TMO and its contractors Rydon  in March 2015 and wanted to be formally recognised

“We didn’t feel individually that we would be listened to. We weren’t listened to. That was our experience.”

Grenfell resident Mr Daffarn  co-wrote the Grenfell Action blog which outlined serious concerns about the tower prior to the blaze. He is due to give evidence to the Inquiry.

A stunned Mr Collins said: “How can you not listen to a tower block for one reason and to blame someone for a problem because you can’t do your job?”

When asked by the Grenfell Inquiry QC Richard Millett if Grenfell Community Unites could have been a showcase for his fellow resident, he said: “Do you seriously want me to begin to answer.

“It’s a disgrace. There are recorded meetings where we have 20 people talking about the same issues.”

“It doesn’t feel like an individual thing to me. There were so many people talking about the problems of the tower.”

Residents signed a petition calling for an independent investigation into the TMO and gave evidence at Kensington and Chelsea council’s housing and property scrutiny committee.

The inquiry continues.

 


 

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