‘An open wound’: Grenfell survivors angered over threat to demolish tower

‘People lost their parents and loved ones in the fire. The tower is somewhere they can go and remember’

Thomas Kingsley
Tuesday 07 September 2021 09:50
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<p>Grenfell Tower pictured in  June 2021, four years after a fire in the residential tower block killed 72 people</p>

Grenfell Tower pictured in June 2021, four years after a fire in the residential tower block killed 72 people

Grenfell have been left “angered and upset” by reported government plans to demolish the tower over safety concerns.

Survivors of the 2017 fire, and the bereaved relatives of the 72 people who died in the tragedy, told The Independent they felt excluded from the decision.

“I’m upset and angry that we found out through a Sunday national newspaper,” Grenfell fire survivor, Ed Daffarn, told The Independent.

He added: “If you go around the community and bereaved [people] and spoke to six different people about the tower you’d get six different responses.

“The lack of consultation is the biggest issue. We were promised at the beginning the bereaved and survivors would be at the heart of the decision-making process.

“The problem with Grenfell is that the powers that be would do things to us rather than with us. It feels like that’s happening again.”

Structural engineering experts hired by the government have “unambiguously and unanimously” advised that the tower should be “carefully taken down” for the safety of the local community, The Sunday Times reported.

Government officials have told bereaved families to expect a decision on the future of the tower block later this month.

Nour-eddine Aboudihaj, another local resident, said the news has upset and angered many in the community. He also believes residents, survivors and the bereaved should be at the core of the decision-making process.

“There should be some commitment to what will be there [Grenfell tower],” he said.

Mr Aboudihaj, who lost a friend in the fire, said the site should become a memorial site, a place for people to reflect.

“People lost their parents and loved ones in the fire. The tower is somewhere they can go and remember.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) took over ownership of the building in 2018 and told families and survivors that the tower block would not be pulled down before the fifth anniversary of the fire in June 2022.

Grenfell Tower is not a matter of ticking a box, it’s very delicate. Many people have lost their homes, many have lost loved ones, we are hurting

Antonio Roncolato, penultimate resident to be evacuated

Antonio Roncolato, the penultimate resident to be evacuated from the tower in 2017 said he was “surprised” at the lack of consultation from the government in the discussions to demolish it before the fifth anniversary.

“The tower eventually will have to come down but the way in which you are bringing forward communication and process is important. The tower represents an open wound to people,” Mr Roncolato told The Independent.

He added that the confusion between government dialogue and newspaper reports is “baffling,” leaving survivors and the bereaved unclear as to where they stand.

“Grenfell Tower is not a matter of ticking a box, it’s very delicate. Many people have lost their homes, many have lost loved ones, we are hurting,” Mr Roncolato said.

Some locals, on the other hand, have welcomed the reported demolition of the tower due to the visible reminder of the tragedy.

Ann McCullough, whose garden sits in the shadow of the tower, still remembers debris from the fire landing in her property days after. A child’s sheet of homework was part of the debris she said, a memory that still traumatises her.

Concerns over the safety of cladding were raised after the 2017 fire at Grenfell tower in which 72 people died

“It has to come down,” Ms McCullough told The Independent.

She added: “It should be made into a memorial garden for the survivors.”

Justice4Grenfell co-founder, Yvette Williams said the decision of what happens to the tower should ultimately be with the bereaved and the survivors as it represents a “graveyard” to their loved ones.

An MHCLG spokesperson said: “We know how important and sensitive this decision is and no decision has been taken.

“Following important independent safety advice from structural engineers, we are engaging closely with the community as we consider the evidence including the safety concerns raised, and what the future of the Grenfell Tower should be.

“We have now published this advice to ensure those most affected have access to the information that will inform a decision on the tower before one is reached.”

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