A residents’ campaign group made numerous complaints over a number of years about fire safety at Grenfell Tower to both Kensington & Chelsea RBC and the organisation responsible for managing the building.
At least six people have died while more than 60 people have been taken to hospital after fire engulfed the tower in Kensington early on Wednesday. All floors of the building, from the second floor up, have been affected. The cause of the fire is not yet known.
A posting on a blog run by the Grenfell Action Group this morning said warnings over safety failings at the tower and other properties managed by the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) had “fallen on deaf ears”.
In posts dating back four years, the group detailed concerns raised with councillors and officials at Kensington & Chelsea, and senior staff at the TMO.
In November last year the group complained of inadequate fire escapes and expressed the belief that “only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord”. Following repeated complaints the group reported in March this year that fire safety notices had been installed in the block. However, the group said such notices had not been installed at other blocks managed by KCTMO.
In 2015, the group reported London Fire Brigade issued an enforcement notice following a fire at the Adair Tower in North Kensington. The unverified enforcement notice was said to have ordered the TMO to improve safety in fire escapes and install self-closing devices to all front doors.
In 2013, the group complained the closure of the block’s car park would seriously restrict emergency vehicle access. Later that year the group reported “continuous electric surges” that had resulted in smoke emanating from electrical appliances and light fixtures.
While the council still owns the properties, they have been managed by KCTMO since 1996. This is “a completely separate company” to the council, the organisation’s website says, although four councillors sit on its board of directors.
In last year’s statement of accounts for Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation Ltd it said £6.5m had been invested in refurbishing Grenfell Tower - a block of 120 homes - as part of a £10m project on the site. The work included the installation of new double-glazed windows, a new communal heating system, and “insulated exterior cladding” designed to “enhance the energy efficiency of the building”. Some eyewitnesses claimed the cladding contributed towards the fire accelerating.
The work was carried out in 2016 by contractor Rydon which said it did the work for KCTMO “on behalf of the council, which met all required building control, fire regulation and health & safety standards”.
Robert Black, chief executive of KCTMO, said: “The fire at Grenfell Tower is devastating and the reports of injury and losses of life absolutely heartbreaking.”
He said he was focused on helping residents while London Fire Brigade was investigating the safety of the tower’s structure.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Nick Paget-Brown (Con), the council’s leader, said: “The council will always ensure its own properties are inspected by the fire service and high standards are set.”
In a statement issued this afternoon, Cllr Paget-Brown said: “This is a terrible day for Kensington and Chelsea and we are doing all we can to support the victims and their families.
“At present all our focus has to be on supporting the rescue and relief operation. But the cause of the fire will need to be fully investigated and we will keep people informed.”
LGC previously reported how the council is supporting those affected find new homes while it is also providing financial assistance to cover their immediate needs.
Earlier this year Southwark LBC was fined £270,000 and order to pay £300,000 legal costs after admitting safety failings at Lakanal House, where six people died as a result of a fire in 2009.