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Editorial No excuse for Grenfell complacency

THERE is no excuse for Kensington authorities’ continued failure to ensure the safety of those living in the vicinity of Grenfell Tower. Protesters blocking roads yesterday in protest against the “lies” they have been told are venting the anger of a community betrayed.

The shock and horror that swept the country as news of 2017’s appalling blaze spread was soon followed by fury at how predictable the disaster was, with residents having repeatedly warned the block was a fire hazard and complained at the time of its refurbishment two years earlier of the use of cheap materials and corner-cutting.

Grenfell’s residents were betrayed by a council and management company that ignored their concerns. They were betrayed by a Conservative administration that had vowed to “kill off health and safety culture for good.” It cost 72 of them their lives. 

Last week’s study by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), which found “significant environmental contamination” at six sites within a mile of the tower and warned people in the area were at an increased likelihood of developing cancer and asthma was not the first inkling authorities may have had that living in the area could continue to pose a health risk.

Locals anticipated the dangers. They asked for tests to establish air toxicity and were fobbed off. The council then ignored warnings from UCLan’s Professor Anna Stec that soil tests should be undertaken before any residents were moved back in. Last week’s report followed Prof Stec’s interim findings last October, which mentioned “huge concentrations” of potentially carcinogenic hydrocarbons and “high levels of hydrogen cyanide.”

As Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad noted at the time, the response from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council was evasive and sought to “manage bad news rather than address it.”

The cynicism of authorities who do not care about the local community is unforgivable when it has already led to massive loss of life. The government and council need to be made to act since they will not do so willingly. That means an upsurge of pressure from the community and all who stand in solidarity with it. The demonstrators who took part in yesterday’s action are showing the way.

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