London tower block fire: Residents group says its warnings about safety ‘fell on deaf ears’

A residents group said its warnings about safety at a west London tower block that went on fire ‘fell on deaf ears’.

London Fire Brigade said there have been ‘a number of fatalities’ at the Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, which went ablaze on Wednesday morning.

The Metropolitan Police have said that six people are confirmed dead but that they expect that figure to rise.

Several hundred people would have been in the 24-storey block when the fire was reported at 1.15am on Wednesday, while more than 50 have been taken to hospital.

The fire service said the cause of the blaze was not yet known at this stage, but residents claim they had warned about the block’s safety on a number of occasions.

The Grenfell Action Group said it had warned the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation about its concerns.

The Grenfell Tower went on fire on Wednesday morning (Picture: Rex)
The Grenfell Tower went on fire on Wednesday morning (Picture: Rex)

In a blog post this morning, the group said: ‘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.

‘All our warnings fell on deaf ears and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time.’

MORE: ‘I’m lucky to be alive’ – residents tell of escaping the Grenfell Tower fire
MORE: Grenfell Tower fire – Latest travel updates, road and Underground closures and Westfield details

A blog post from the group from November 2016 warned that ‘only a catastrophic event’ would expose issues residents had.

The group said there was one entry and exit to Grenfell Tower during improvement works at the block in Latimer Road and it had issues with evacuation procedures at the building.

A floor plan of the building was posted on Twitter.

The group claimed access to the building was ‘severely restricted’ for emergency services and other vehicles and that residents were advised to stay in their flats in case of fire.

A floor plan of the Grenfell Tower (Picture: @JustinHemming/Twitter)
A floor plan of the Grenfell Tower (Picture: @JustinHemming/Twitter)

The tower block was recently refurbished at a cost of £8.7 million, with work completed in May 2016.

Smoke billows from the tower block (Picture: PA)
Smoke billows from the tower block (Picture: PA)

The exterior of the 1970s-built tower was ‘modernised’ with cladding and replacement windows, while additional homes were added using vacant space in the building, according to Rydon Construction.

Councillor Nick Paget-Brown, leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, said there needs to be ‘a thorough investigation into the cause of the fire and why it spread so rapidly.’

He said there were always ‘concerns’ about fire safety in tower blocks, but said council buildings in the area ‘were regularly inspected’.

Grenfell Action Group said it had been warning the council for four years about safety concerns at the tower block.

In a post last November, it said: ‘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.

The Grenfell Tower before the blaze (Picture: ITV News)
The Grenfell Tower before the blaze (Picture: ITV News)

‘We have blogged many times on the subject of fire safety at Grenfell Tower and 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.’

The group claimed that residents had received no proper fire safety instructions in the past 20 years.

‘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,’ it said.

‘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.’

Their most recent post on fire safety, just three months ago, echoed their previous concerns that there were ‘still no fire safety instructions on display’ in a number of other KCTMO tower blocks.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council said that the ‘cause of the fire will be fully investigated’.

Robert Black, Chief Executive of Kensington & Chelsea TMO, said: “The fire at Grenfell Tower is devastating and the reports of injury and losses of life absolutely heartbreaking. Along with my colleagues, I have been supporting residents since the early hours, working with the emergency services and the community. Respite centres are at Latymer Community Centre, St Clement’s Church, Harrow Club and Rugby Portobello Trust. The Casualty Bureau Number is 0800 0961 233.

“Currently we’re focussing on helping those residents and London Fire Brigade is investigating the safety of the tower’s structure but we will issue a further statement in due course.”