Kensington & ChelseaNews

Grenfell Inquiry: Witness saw no evidence that building control asked about the cladding’s “ability to resist fire spread”

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

There were so many issues around fire warnings and emergency escape routes from Grenfell tower that the plans to renovate it “should have been rejected” by Kensington and Chelsea council, the Inquiry into the disaster has heard.

Expert witness Beryl Menzies said the council’s building control officials who looked at the design to modernise the tower block made “a fundamental failing” because they did not ask for more details on the flammable aluminium cladding.

The first phase of the Inquiry concluded in 2017 the fatal fire which killed 72 people was caused by the cladding installed during renovations – used as a substitute for more expensive zinc cladding.

In the latest evidence heard by the Inquiry, Ms Menzies said: “In my opinion, the information submitted to the building control body at the time of the full plans application was insufficient to demonstrate compliance with the Building Regulations.”

She said building control “ought to have requested further information about the proposed works, and in particular the cladding panels and insulation”.

And she saw no evidence that building control asked about the cladding’s “ability to resist fire spread”.

Developers can use private or local authority building control departments to look at their plans.

Ms Menzies said building control is not a total safety net to ensure a building is fully compliant with safety regulations because officers “are not there for every stage of the construction, it  cannot be seen as a complete safety net”.

Fire safety engineering expert Barbara Lane criticised the fire safety strategy for the work in the tower, which got under way in 2015.

She told the Inquiry the role was to “protect human beings” and said the work done on the tower was “entirely inadequate” in her view.

Dr Lane said a two-hour site visit in 2012 by fire consultants Exova was “wholly insufficient”.

She also said the smoke control system was not working, there was just one staircase for residents, the nursery and boxing club to use, there were issues with fire doors and “all sorts of complexity”.

Exova has told the inquiry the report was for “experts”.  Dr Lane said cladding expert Harley had asked for advice, but it was not provided.

She said Exova “offered a detailed fire safety strategy and so a detailed fire safety strategy needed to be provided”.

The Inquiry continues.

Pictured top: Grenfell Tower as it looks today

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