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Grenfell Tower fire: Charred shell of building to be covered in coming weeks

Residents in surrounding community said they were at ‘breaking point’ living in shadow of tragedy

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Thursday 27 July 2017 15:55 BST
The block will be coated in a protective wrap from mid-August
The block will be coated in a protective wrap from mid-August (EPA)

The charred shell of Grenfell Tower will be covered in the coming weeks to aid the criminal investigation and ongoing recovery efforts inside the building, according to the site manager.

The block will be coated in a protective wrap from mid-August after a fire of unprecedented scale gutted the 24-storey high-rise in June.

Scaffolding will also be erected around the tower that could help facilitate any eventual deconstruction of the building.

Site manager Michael Lockwood told a public meeting on Wednesday the building could be demolished “towards the end of 2018”, if the community supports it.

“I think that to be honest, the building will stay up throughout 2018,” he told attendees at the Notting Hill Methodist Church.

“Then towards the end of 2018, I think we could start to bring it down, if that is what the community wants, and the scaffolding will help us to do that because we can do that within the wrap.”

The move is likely to be well received by the local community who have been pleading with the council to cover the block since the tragedy.

Residents told the panel they were suffering repeated trauma from living in the shadow of the building (Lucy Pasha-Robinson/The Independent) (Lucy Pasha-Robinson/Independent)

One man asked the panel if it was possible he was suffering multiple, repeated traumas by passing in front of the tower every day and reliving the experience.

“Each time we walk around this place we see an edifice. That reminds me of what happened on 14 June – of the police man stopping me from rescuing anyone I could save,” he said.

“Do you think that the collective mental health of the people in this room is the same?”

Residents of the nearby Lancaster West estate told The Independent last month the hollowed-out shell that looms over the surrounding area serves as a morbid and ghostly reminder of what happened.

Mr Lockwood said covering the tower was important to preserve the forensic recovery efforts as part of the criminal investigation into the tragedy.

One resident from a nearby block said he was at “breaking point”, telling the panel: “We are the silent victims of this tragedy.”

He said living in the shadow of the tower had made his asthma worse and said noise from the site was constant.

“Some residents have had enough, they have seriously had enough...I have had enough,” he said.

Mr Lockwood also said covering the tower would stop ash and dirt being blown around the local area, after a number of residents complained of respiratory problems and voiced concerns over air quality during the meeting.

He said the recovery process was slow as it was being carried out “sensitively, respectfully and with dignity” but said a team of 50 people were working seven days a week to get it done.

The recovery operation is likely to last until December, and the criminal investigation should be completed by January 2018, he added.

But he said the stability of the internal structure remained a “big issue”, with some walls and ceilings still not fully secured and 1,800 props still inside.

Scaffolding beams will also be attached to the core of the building, which will allow for a lift to be installed in the tower.

Mr Lockwood said the move will also help in the recovery of some of the personal possessions that remain inside.

He told the meeting that residents would be written to to ask what they wanted to be retrieved from the building, adding there are about 33 flats from which personal possessions could now be removed.

He said some flats in the building were “completely untouched”, while others were completely “devastated” by the fire.

“What we have to be mindful of is that we do that with the sensitivity that further up the building, we are still recovering possessions and remains,” he said.

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