APPEARANCES matter in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea – the UK’s richest council with an average home value of £1.4 million.
The council’s planning application for refurbishments to Grenfell Tower is littered with references to how it would look to the surrounding rich residents.
So the council paid £8.4m on refurbishments. But they did not spend £200,000 on fire sprinkler systems for every floor or £5000 extra for fire retardant panels. In fact, they wrapped Grenfell in inferior plastic and told residents “stay put, don’t leave in the event of a fire”.
Whole families, children and the immobile elderly burned to death. Those who survived only did so by ignoring official advice.
The council ignored the advice from residents and world-class fire safety experts alike. As far back as 2000, Gordon Cooke – a leading fire safety consultant – warned that using the type of cladding seen on Grenfell “is difficult to justify when considering life safety” and “can contribute to the severity and speed of fire development”.
For four years, the UK Government sat on a damning report about 4000 older tower blocks being at risk of fire.
Shortly after the fire, the Scottish Government wrote to every social housing provider asking them to check their stock for fire risks.
What happened at Grenfell demands a criminal probe and charges against the culpable. When “red tape” is cut it is the poor who are then at the mercy of lax fire safety. Yet millions were spent on a facade that kills in order to inflate property prices of the rich.
Will the council guarantee to rebuild proper homes on the site for the surviving families? Or will this be an excuse for more social cleansing and gentrification?