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Grenfell failings ‘introduced over more than a decade’

SAM TOBIN reports from Holborn

MULTIPLE fire safety flaws and regulatory breaches were introduced to Grenfell Tower more than a decade ago, the inquiry into the blaze heard today.

Neither the fire lifts nor fire mains were capable of helping vulnerable residents flee the building or aiding the emergency response, expert witness Dr Barbara Lane said.

The lifts lacked an escape hatch, a secondary power supply or doors that can resist a fire for 60 minutes, as outlined in Approved Document B of the building regulations, she said.

The block’s dry rise system was also said to be in breach of statutory guidance, while a gas pipe installed in 2016, running throughout the building from the basement, was exposed at key points during the fire, the expert continued.

Ms Lane said the 24-storey structure was built with walls that were “entirely non-combustible” but the new cladding in 2016 added flammable material to the exterior, with a cavity between the wall and the insulation.

Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack told the Star that “we need to take time” to consider all the evidence “in a lot more detail.”

But he added: “I think [today’s hearing] confirms one of the things that we said from the start, that the key issue here is the fire protection in the building.”

Mr Wrack said Ms Lane had “very helpfully set out” the relationship between fire protection measures and “building regulations, the building control system, fire risk assessments and then how the fire service responds operationally.

“Clearly, there’s a whole host of failings in that system in terms of the work that was done at Grenfell Tower.”

In Parliament yesterday, shadow housing minister John Healey demanded answers over more than 1,000 “suspect cladding samples” which he said have been refused testing since the Grenfell Tower fire.

Mr Healey criticised government inaction on cladding and asked why 1,319 cladding samples had been untested.

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire could only tell MPs he would “look into” the matter.

Mr Healey said that “simply isn't good enough,” adding: “Since Grenfell, minsters have been too slow to take responsibility, too slow to act and this Conservative dogma of hands off is delaying the government action necessary to deal with this national disaster.”

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