It is not the end for those left behind
Words by Ellie Sanders, Staff Writer
After more than five years and 320,000 documents, the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire came to an end on 10th November. The final speech, given by Richard Millett KC, stated that “each and every one of the deaths that occurred in Grenfell Tower, on the 14th June 2017, was avoidable.” The inquiry also saw the building industry branded “reckless and predatory”.
72 people died in the fire, which is thought to have started in a fridge on the fourth floor. After the building’s external cladding caught alight, the flames were able to spread and quickly engulf the tower. Many families and survivors were left grieving for loved ones and the local community was left shocked by what had happened. Corporations have since pointed the finger at one another for who is to blame for the disaster, with Millett describing the building industry as “indulging in a merry-go-round of blame”. He highlighted “incompetence” and “possibly dishonest practices” in the building corporations, as well as “weak” building controls, failure of London Fire Brigade to learn from errors made in previous fires and failure of the government as playing a part in the tragedy.
The inquiry, which opened in September 2017, closely examined the refurbishment of the building a year prior to the fire. Three firms mentioned as playing a part in the disaster include:
Arconic: an international firm that manufactured the tower’s cladding panels and sold “highly volatile” material, as well as providing a potentially misleading impression of the possible risks in safety documents. The firm’s closing statement involved no acceptance that it was responsible for the fire. Their barrister claimed that the firm was in fact the “victim” of “an agenda” against it.
Studio E: a London architects’ firm that designed the refurbishment of the tower without considering the safety regulations stating that the materials used should not spread fire.
Exova: a fire engineering firm that created a “false sense of security” by claiming that the flammable cladding used would have “no adverse effect”.
The government has also come under fire for its failure to object to the cladding used on Grenfell Tower, despite knowing it had failed laboratory tests in 2001. Moreover, government building guidance was extremely weak and little has changed five years later, with thousands of buildings across the UK still covered in combustible cladding.
The inquiry has so far cost taxpayers at least £150 million. A report from Sir Martin Moor-Bick is expected in 2023 and criminal proceedings by the Metropolitan Police could follow, but are unlikely to take place before 2024.
Whilst the inquiry has ended, the pain and loss experienced by those left behind and the community is far from over. One survivor, 20-year-old Tiago Alves, stated how “it’s gotten to the point where everyone is to blame so much that no one’s to blame…it was literally catastrophe after catastrophe leading up to the fire, and that’s quite hard to swallow.” Relatives of those who died, survivors and residents of the estate where Grenfell Tower stands, say they will not be satisfied until those responsible go to prison.
Featured Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons