Residents of Grenfell Tower had warned of a “future major disaster” in a blog post just months before the west London tower block suffered a devastating fire, which has killed six people at the time of writing, and at least 50 in hospital.
More than 40 fire engines and 200+ firefighters attended the scene on Latimer Road in north Kensington, a 24-storey tower block with 120 flats.
Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said she’s never seen a fire like it in all her time working in the industry: “This is an unprecedented incident. In my 29 years of being a firefighter I have never ever seen anything of this scale. Firefighters are working very hard at the moment.”
A post from the Grenfell Action Group described the “ineptitude and incompetence” of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), and stated that they believed “only a catastrophic event” would expose it and “bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation” the building was facing.
“Unfortunately, the Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation,” they wrote in November 2016.
Here is the full blog post:
“It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice! The Grenfell Action Group believe that the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring. We believe that our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO with the help of the RBKC scrutiny Committee who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.
“We believe that these investigations will become part of damning evidence of the poor safety record of the KCTMO should a fire affect any other of their properties and cause the loss of life that we are predicting…
In the last twenty years and despite the terrifying power surge incident in 2013 and recent fire at Adair Tower, the residents of Grenfell Tower have received no proper fire safety instructions from the KCTMO. Residents were informed by a temporary notice stuck in the lift and one announcement in a recent regeneration newsletter that they should remain in their flats in the event of fire. There are not and never have been any instructions posted in the Grenfell Tower noticeboard or on individual floor as to how residents should act in event of a fire. Anyone who witnessed the recent tower block fire at Shepherds Court, in nearby Shepherd’s Bush, will know that the advice to remain in our properties would have led to certain fatalities and we are calling on our landlord to re-consider the advice that they have so badly circulated.
The Grenfell Action Group predict that it won’t be long before the words of this blog come back to haunt the KCTMO management and we will do everything in our power to ensure that those in authority know how long and how appallingly our landlord has ignored their responsibility to ensure the heath and safety of their tenants and leaseholders. They can’t say that they haven’t been warned!”
The group had written numerous blogs, dating as far back as 2013, warning of fire hazards in the building. Similar – though smaller – fires had occurred in nearby Shepherd’s Court in Shepherd’s Bush, as well as in Adair Tower, also located in Kensington. But despite this, Grenfell Tower residents felt that there were still “no proper fire safety instructions from the KCTMO”. There say there was also a failure to instruct residents “how to act in event of a fire”.
A letter from Kensington and Chelsea council has circulated, addressed to the owner of the Grenfell Action Group blog, asking him to remove accusations of negligence by the council and by KCTMO.
Rydon, a company responsible for a £10 million “regeneration” supposed to protect Grenfell Tower from fire, has also faced criticism for removing a page from their website detailing the work.
The webpage, which dates back to completed work in 2016, was removed in the early hours of this morning.
Attention has also been brought to a 2016 bill that required landlords to make properties “fit for human habitation”. The bill, which was proposed by the Labour Party last year, was an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill, the Government’s attempt to reform housing law. The shadow housing minister, Teresa Pearce, had said that renters did not have “basic consumer protection” to help them.
She pointed to the majority of landlords who “go out of their way to ensure that even the slightest safety hazard is sorted quickly and efficiently”, but said that this made it “all the more distressing when we see reports of homes which are frankly unfit for human habitation being let, often at obscene prices”.
“Where else in modern day life could someone get away with this? It’s a consumer issue. If I purchased a mobile phone or a computer that didn’t work, didn’t do what it said it would or was unsafe I would take it back and get a refund.”
However, the bill was voted down by the Conservative Party, who said that an attempt to make housing fit for human habitation was “unnecessary regulation”. Conservative MP Philip Davies – who is a landlord himself – said that landlords are an “easy target for the left in this country”. 39% of Conservative MPs are landlords.