Since the disastrous fire in June 2017 which led to the death of 72 people in Grenfell Tower, in North Kensington, London, concern has been focussed on the condition of other high-rise buildings fitted with similar combustible cladding. The campaign to protect leaseholders from the costs of remedial work on these buildings continues – see https://endourcladdingscandal.org.
But there is another question, and that is what to do with the remains of Grenfell Tower itself. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has now published guidance based on independent expert advice that will inform a decision about the future of the Tower later this summer. You can read the advice here.
A letter from Alistair Watters, Director, Grenfell Site & Programme summarises the results of meetings with bereaved families, survivors
and residents through May and June, and shares questions, concerns and priorities about the way ahead.
These are some of the most commonly asked questions from the May-July conversations.
Q. Is the Tower at risk of collapsing?
A: Grenfell Tower is stable but was badly damaged by the fire. Immediately following the fire, measures were put in place to ensure the Tower was stable and to protect the building as fully as possible. Because of the work undertaken so far, people can continue to live, work and go to the school nearby. A system is in place to monitor the Tower 24/7 and this is supplemented by daily inspections and regular visual floor-by-floor checks by structural engineering specialists.
Q: ‘No change to the Tower until the fifth anniversary’: what does that mean?
A: The government needs to consider if, and when, the Tower should be carefully taken down to maintain safety. It will be at least a year before we begin to implement any decision. This means that the Tower will be standing in its current form in June 2022, even if a decision has been taken to carefully take down the Tower.
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Q. Has a decision about the future of the Tower already been reached?
A. No. The government has received advice from engineering experts, which we are carefully considering, and want to discuss it with you, before a decision is made. We expect a decision to be made in September.
Q: Are there contaminated materials inside the Tower which might be in the air and environment nearby?
A: A high level of precaution in handling any building materials from the Tower is used, as agreed with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive. All bagged building material was removed from the site by June 2019, and from the Tower by March 2020. Air quality around the Tower is regularly monitored by Public Health England to assess any risk to
public health. This includes monitoring for the presence of asbestos fibres. The monitoring has suggested that the risk to public health remains low. It is published here:
Work is taking place to analyse local soils for signs of contamination. Results from the first stage of this programme are available at: www.gov.uk/guidance/grenfell-environmental-checks-stage-1-
report and the second stage results will be published later this year.
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Q: I’ve heard that there are still people’s ashes and remains within the Tower?
A: The police released Grenfell Tower as a crime scene in August 2018. The police and the coroner have confirmed – and spoken directly to families – that they have recovered, identified and returned those who died to their families. The government remains in contact with the Metropolitan Police and coroner to ensure that decisions on the Grenfell Tower site do not interfere with their work. We recognise that the Tower is a sacred place for many. We will ensure that the Tower and site continues to be managed in a sensitive way.
Q. Who is the new Principal Contractor and what will they do?
A. The new contractor is Deconstruct UK Ltd (DUK), part of De-Group. They have been working at the Grenfell Tower site since 2017 and understand the structure of the Tower and sensitive management of the site. They have not been appointed to carefully take down the Tower. For more
information, please go to: www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/grenfell-community-updates
Q: Who is paying for the safety works, or if the Tower comes down?
A: The government has responsibility for the cost of safety works. If the Tower is carefully taken down, there will be no costs for local residents or council tax-payers.
Q. Are you collecting ideas for a memorial?
A. The independent Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission has been established to enable bereaved families, survivors and local residents to decide together on the future memorial, ensuring the voices of the bereaved families are clearly heard. We will pass any ideas that we have heard onto the Memorial Commission and would encourage you to continue to share your ideas directly with them: www.grenfelltowermemorial.co.uk/contact
Until further announcements in September, if you need to talk to
someone, you can call the Grenfell Health and Wellbeing Service, a free and confidential NHS service for children and adults on 020 8637 6279. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit grenfellwellbeing.com.
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