London’s tower fire has raised questions over inadequate safety standards

Contributed by `Ben Wilson

The terrible fire that engulfed a 24-story block of flats in central London (Borough of Kensington and Chelsea) and known as Grenfell Tower, was a terrible tragedy that took at least 12 lives and injured a much larger number injured. Some seriously.

Quick action by firefighters and early assistance provided by Muslim worshipers, praying during Ramadan at a nearby Mosque at one in the morning, prevented an even worse tragedy. A crisis will often bring out the best in humanity.

The fire has also brought attention on the inadequacy of control over standards in the United Kingdom.

This tower did not house the wealthy, but people on the lower economic scale, who needed affordable housing. The United kingdom has a form of public housing that had been traditionally provided by local councils. In this case, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea ( local council), had handed management of all its residential properties over to a body called the  Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Association. Critics have been concerned about the Association’s joint ventures with developers on projects that have been unpopular with the locals.

Grenfell Tower had been built on the Lancaster West Estate, which is surrounded by well to do and very wealthy neighbourhoods, and is only a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace. The estate’s residents are working class and many belong to ethnic groups that have relatively recently migrated to the country.

The  Tower had recently been refurbished by a construction company called Rydon,  which has been criticised for doing the job without proper regard for safety, by using flammable cladding on the outside.  Although not yet been officially established whether this caused the fire, it has raised discussion over inadequate and falling safety standards  that have been waiting for a major catastrophe to occur.

There had also been a problem with the gas service. This had been mentioned on BBC radio yesterday, before the fire, which reported that people had seen ash like material floating around the area.

The resident’s Grenfell Action Group, had been campaigning over some years, over what it considered “very poor fire safety standards” at Grenfell Tower.

In a blog from November last year the it warned that “only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Association, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.”

On its website, the Grenfell action Group responded to the fire with the following:

“Watching breaking news about the Grenfell Tower fire catastrophe. Too soon (5am) to even guess at numbers of casualties and fatalities. Our heartfelt and sincere condolences to all who have perished, to the injured, to those who are bereaved or are still searching for missing loved ones.

“Regular readers of this blog will know that we have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in RBKC.

“all our warnings fell on deaf ears and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time…links to previous blogs we posted on this site trying to warn the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, who own this property, and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization who supposedly manage all social housing in RBKC on the Council’s behalf”.

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