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Lack of progress slammed three years on from Grenfell disaster

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

A father who escaped the Grenfell Tower blaze with his disabled partner and toddler has slammed the lack of progress in the three years since.

“Words without actions do not do anything,” said survivor Joseph John, who is calling for action to prevent a similar disaster happening again.

Mr John had only moved into Grenfell just over two months before the June 2017 fire.

He climbed out of his second floor flat and passed his 14-month son down to a stranger before carrying his disabled partner out on his back.

He described the fire as if “the building was being eaten from the inside”.

Now he is joining other bereaved and survivors of the fire, which claimed the lives of 72 people, who say nothing has changed three years on.

Mr John said: “I don’t want it to happen to other people. When I hear a fire engine my heart is racing.

“There is still dangerous cladding on buildings, we don’t have sprinklers on high-rise flats.”

He also wants a review of the ‘stay put’ policy.

He was told to stay in Grenfell and await help from the firefighters but decided to get out.

But three years on, he fears another Grenfell could happen.

A group of the bereaved and survivors, and their lawyers, have taken the step of writing to the Grenfell Inquiry urging it to take a more robust position to push for key safety measures it recommended last October to be implemented.

In a letter to the Inquiry, lawyers asked it to use its position to influence the speed that its key safety recommendations happen.

They want swifter action to remove unsafe cladding on London’s buildings – or for them to be closed and residents rehoused.

And the lawyers said the coronavirus pandemic makes the move more urgent as it “has an especially severe impact upon those who have been confined in high-rise buildings for many weeks”.

And they want to see a review of the ‘stay put’ policy on high rise blocks above 11m to a ‘get out’ policy instead.

They are also calling for sprinklers in buildings higher than 11m.

As of April 30 this year the Department for Housing, Communities & Local Government had identified 456 buildings that still needed to refurbished within the scope of its programme.

They have to be at least 18 metres and above, with unsafe Grenfell-style aluminium composite material ACM cladding systems.

By this date 149 buildings had been fully fixed, leaving 307 which had yet to be worked on, with work having not yet begun at all on 167 of these.

Of these buildings, 154 were social sector buildings, 208 were private sector residential buildings, 30 were hotels, 54 were student accommodation blocks, and 10 were publicly-owned buildings.

Marcio and Andreia Perestrelo, who escaped from the 21st floor but lost their unborn son Logan shortly afterwards, said their faith that the inquiry could stop another Grenfell “has been eroded away by those with the power and responsibility to make the relevant changes”.

They say three years on from the disaster not even the simplest recommendations have been implemented, adding in a statement: “The continuing failure to implement the lifesaving recommendations makes it clear that nobody is listening and the lost lives mean very little.”

Responding to their letter the Grenfell Inquiry panel said they “wish to make it clear that they too would like to see more rapid progress on the implementation of the Phase 1 recommendations,” which they were pleased the Prime Minister accepted and undertook to implement in full.

Pictured top: The burning Grenfell Tower in 2017

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