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Grenfell Inquiry Grenfell refurbishment turned tower into ‘death trap,’ the inquiry hears

THE refurbishment of Grenfell Tower turned the block into a “death trap,” the inquiry into the fire heard today.

Danny Friedman QC, representing some of the bereaved and survivors of Grenfell, criticised the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) tenant management organisation (TMO) for having “fobbed off” residents who raised concerns over the refurbishment.

He said: “In the second decade of 21st century London, governed by a regulatory framework designed to ensure fire safety, a local authority instigated and oversaw the refurbishment of a social housing high-rise tower block in such a way as to render it a death trap.

“RBKC and the TMO did this and they did so using public funds, paid to an array of professionals, contractors and subcontractors, none of whom have yet accepted any responsibility for their part in what happened.”

Mr Friedman said the tragedy was “a story of disempowerment through withholding knowledge, including technical knowledge, and not enough people in society being included in conversations about what risks this country should be prepared to tolerate.

His colleague Stephanie Barwise QC said that the combination of “highly combustible materials and omissions of cavity barriers amounts to a collection of catastrophic failures in construction safety.”

Ms Barwise pointed out that “fires involving external cladding systems have become almost the archetypal form of mass fire disaster” since the turn of the century, saying that “this fact put construction and fire engineering professionals on notice” of the dangers.

She also criticised the “corporate silence” of companies involvement in the refurbishment, which “deprives the families of the degree of resolution and understanding to which they are entitled and has only served to increase their pain and uncertainty.”

She added that main contractor Rydon had been “disingenuous” in its statement to the inquiry suggesting that it was not responsible for critical decisions related to the cladding.

Evidence published by the inquiry also revealed that a proposal to fix the smoke ventilation system in Grenfell Tower, which failed eight days before the fire, was ignored.

Martin Booth, managing director of system makers PSB, said the firm had offered to repair the ventilation for £1,800 plus VAT but received no response.

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