Following on from the tragic fire on 14th June 2017 at Grenfell Tower, which so far has claimed 80 innocent lives, it has been revealed that samples of cladding from 149 tower blocks in 45 local authority areas have failed fire safety tests. Downing Street have said every panel has failed combustibility tests.
We recently witnessed the drastic measures taken by Camden Council to evacuate some 3000 of their residents from 4 tower blocks at the Chalcot Estate in Swiss Cottage because of serious fire safety concerns due to the use of cladding made up of aluminium panels with a polyethylene core similar to the type used on Grenfell Tower.
It is understood that prior to the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, the London Fire Brigade issued a warning to all 33 Local Authorities in London about the risks of using cladding to the exterior of tower blocks. London Fire Brigade carried out testing of panels following a fire which ripped through an 18 storey tower block in Shepherds Bush in 2016, noted to be in close proximity to Grenfell Tower. It was found that the combustibility of the panels did not comply with building regulations and this allowed the fire to spread and enter into surrounding flats.
As to why these warnings from the London Fire Brigade were not followed promptly but left until after the Grenfell tragedy will be the subject of many discussions.
It appears that the cladding used on Grenfell, Reynobond panels, made by a US firm are aluminium coated with a flammable plastic core. These panels have been labelled flammable and banned in Europe and the United States. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said that the panels used on Grenfell Tower are not compliant with the UK’s building regulations. Chancellor Phillip Hammond has gone as far as saying the non-fire resistant cladding fitted to Grenfell Tower is in fact banned in the UK.
A number of issues will have to be investigated by the Police and by Judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick at the Public inquiry, in particular whether the cladding used to insulate Grenfell Tower was compliant with the UK’s building regulations and if not, why was use of the cladding authorised and by whom.
It is important for an independent judicial public inquiry to go ahead as soon as possible to identify who is responsible for such a great loss of human lives.