Grenfell - Six Years On

14 Jun 2023

Six years ago today, the horrific Grenfell fire took 72 lives and left yet more with serious injuries. Despite all this time having passed since Grenfell, not one person has been held personally accountable, let alone criminally liable for the negligence that allowed such a devastating fire. Many survivors of the fire continue to live uprooted lives, dealing with the trauma of losing loved ones and with some having faced additional housing insecurity after the fire.

But the fall-out from Grenfell has extended far beyond the residents of Grenfell tower. In the wake of the fire, it was discovered that the building’s cladding, that had been added during refurbishment carried out between 2012 and 2016 was extremely flammable. The buildings original fire safety system, which centred on containing any fire to the flat that it originated from, was undone by the cladding that wrapped around the building, making a path for the fire to spread. Since then, flammable cladding has been discovered on buildings up and down the country, plunging homeowners into uncertainty and disrupting everyone from new families looking to move into a bigger home to the recently bereaved, trying to execute a will.

The campaign for justice for the Grenfell survivors goes on, and the need to learn the lessons has never been more urgent. In recent years we have seen other major fires, like the recent fires in Shadwell, which highlighted how overcrowding and some dangerous e-scooters are increasing the risk and deadliness of fire. The deadly Lakanal House fire of 2009, which preceded Grenfell, took the lives of three adults and three young children, one aged just 20 days. An Inquest into the Lakanal House fire found that deaths from this fire could have been prevented with proper fire safety checks.

If we truly want to honour the memories of those lost at Grenfell, as well as those who have died at Shadwell and Lakanal House, we need action. The Grenfell survivors have waited too long for Justice, and developers need to stop shirking responsibility and risking lives in pursuit of a quick buck. Michael Gove is right to put pressure on cladding companies and developers. His threat to ban recalcitrant developers who refuse to cooperate with the cladding removal scheme from building new homes is a good start, but it’s a threat the government must be willing to stick to and represents only the first step of what is needed. It’s also action that had to be dragged out of the government after years of tireless campaigning by Grenfell survivors and reflects only a small part of what is needed. Four of the twelve recommendations from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Inquiry are yet to be implemented, including the key recommendation of personal emergency evacuation plans for disabled residents. Instituting tougher standards on fire safety, tackling overcrowding in housing, reversing the disastrous cuts to the Fire Service, installation of sprinkler and other fire systems and prosecuting those responsible.

We need this and so much more to even begin to honour the memory of the victims of Grenfell and to ensure it never happens again.

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