Grenfell smoke vents show ‘incompetence and indifference’ of management

A Grenfell tribute wall
Support us and go ad-free

The standard of the smoke ventilation system at Grenfell Tower shows the “incompetence and indifference” of the organisation in charge of running the building and its advisers, a public inquiry has been told.

“A long and chequered history”

The inquiry into the June 2017 blaze at the west London tower block, which claimed 72 lives, heard that a fire in the 24-storey block of flats in April 2010 exposed some concerns with the automatic opening vents (AOVs).

Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) was appointed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) to run its council housing stock. Adrian Williamson QC, representing the bereaved, survivors, and residents, told the inquiry:

The smoke ventilation system (SVS) is yet another story of incompetence and indifference on the part of the TMO and their advisers. The SVS has a long and chequered history dating from its initial construction of neglect and non-compliance.

This story is bookended by a serious fire in 2010 and the catastrophic fire in 2017.

The Grenfell Memorial Wall (Jonathan Brady/PA)
The Grenfell Memorial Wall (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free
Smoke inhalation

Resident Sayeda Ahmed ended up inhaling smoke which came from the April 2010 fire and made its way up the building.

Williamson said RBKC solicitors wrote to Ahmed’s legal team, stating:

they are prepared to concede that on the date of the fire for which we are concerned the fire detection system which was in place at Grenfell Tower was defective and they are accordingly prepared to accept responsibility for your client’s claim.

Janice Wray, a health and safety adviser at the KCTMO, sent an email to the London Fire Brigade (LFB) where she stated “in retrospect the delay should have caused us to consider what, if any interim measures were required until repairs were completed and the system was fully operational again”.

Williamson described this period referred to by Wray as one

whereby remedial work had been required, it had not been progressed, it had not been carried out on time and it had not been carried out prior to the April 2010 fire.

He told the inquiry panel that none of that information had been passed to the fire risk assessor and added “it was a typical example of the TMO’s laxness and mismanagement”.

Failure to comply

Stephanie Barwise QC, also representing the bereaved, survivors, and residents, said that PSB, a company which installed a smoke ventilation system in the block, has been given the chance to justify its system.

She said PSB has had since April 2018 “to explain the basis of its design and yet has failed to do so”.

She added that it’s not clear whether PSB has consulted an independent expert to counter opinions which have been given to the inquiry.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. As usual everyone has someone else to blame. The council blame the TCO, they blame the ventilation company and they probably hide in a corner, who knows. Meanwhile the government gets away with having rules which allow this and inquiries which won’t touch on it after friendly investigations ‘prove’ that the government ‘did nothing wrong’

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.