Grenfell United project safety warnings onto tower blocks

‘This building is covered in dangerous cladding’: Grenfell survivors project fire safety warnings on to tower blocks across England

‘Two years later we cannot wait any longer, we need action now so everyone is safe in their homes,’ say campaigners, ahead of second anniversary of disaster

Chris Baynes
Thursday 13 June 2019 15:21
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Grenfell survivors and victims’ relatives have beamed fire safety warnings on to towers across England ahead of the second anniversary of the disaster.

High-rise blocks of flats in London, Newcastle and Manchester were illuminated with messages highlighting the continued threat of deadly blazes two years on from the fire that killed 72 people.

The projections claimed the buildings are wrapped in dangerous cladding, are not fitted with sprinklers, or have defective fire doors.

The messages were organised as a guerrilla protest by the group of survivors and bereaved families who came together as Grenfell United to campaign for change in the wake of the disaster that claimed the lives of their neighbours, friends and relatives.

The group’s chair, Natasha Elcock, who escaped from the June 2017 fire, said: “We needed to send a strong message. It’s been two years since Grenfell and people are still going to bed at night worried that a fire like Grenfell could happen to them.

“After the fire we were promised that blocks would be made safe. Two years later we cannot wait any longer, we need action now so everyone is safe in their homes.”

The messages projected on Wednesday night reflected the concerns of residents of three tower blocks who have been pushing for action to make their homes safe.

Newcastle’s 25-storey Cruddas Park House, a council housing block for over-50s, was illuminated with the words: “2 years after Grenfell and the fire doors in this building still don’t work.”

In London, council-owned Frinstead House, a 20-storey block metres away from Grenfell Tower, was lit up by the words: “This building still has no sprinklers.”

A message projected on to one of the NV Buildings in Salford Quays, Greater Manchester, warned: “This building is still covered in dangerous cladding.”

The tower complex, which has 246 flats across three blocks, is wrapped in high-pressure laminate materials, which were found to have contributed to a deadly 2009 fire at Lakanal House in London. Work to replace NV Buildings’ cladding is not covered by the government’s removal fund and leaseholders have been told they face a bill of up to £3m to make their homes safe.

Grenfell campaigners were joined at NV Buildings by residents of two other Manchester tower blocks, Burton Place and Skyline Central 1, who face paying up to £80,000 to remove flammable cladding from their buildings.

James Oates, who lives in Skyline Central, said: “We’re trapped inside an unsafe tinderbox, essentially, that we can’t afford to get out of. It just feels like the walls are closing in around us.”

The protest came amid growing concern and frustration over the continued fire risk in towers across the country two years after the Grenfell disaster in west London.

Some 164 private tower blocks across the country are still covered in Grenfell-style aluminium composite material, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Grenfell United projected a message on to ​one of the NV Buildings in Salford

Grenfell United this week accused the government of “going through the motions” on fire safety and failing to take action to prevent similar deadly blazes.

The group is calling for mandatory fire-safe doors in all blocks, sprinklers to keep escape routes clear, and the removal of all dangerous cladding. It also wants a new social housing regulator to be established to ensure residents are “listened to and treated with respect”.

Residents of flats which were ravaged by fire in Barking, east London, on Sunday said they had been raising concerns for two years about the wooden cladding wrapped around their building.

Karim Mussilhy, who lost his uncle in the Grenfell Tower fire, said: “We want to make sure the general public understand that the issues of Grenfell are still happening today.

“Last week I visited residents in Newcastle and I heard how they were raising concerns but being ignored. That’s what happened to residents in Grenfell before the fire.

“We have to change the culture in social housing so people are treated with respect.”

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Kensington and Chelsea Council, which owns Frinstead House, said it had launched a fire safety programme across the borough which included the “replacement of fire doors and an ongoing review of evacuation guidelines”.

“We are also seeking clear guidance and recommendations from central government on fire safety systems, and we have fire marshals in place in blocks where concerns have been raised,” a spokesperson added.

Newcastle City Council, which owns Cruddas Park House, said it was planning to invest in safety improvements at the tower and had “put a number of mitigation measures” in place.

A spokesperson for Countryside Properties, which developed the NV Buildings, said: “We ensure that all our developments meet prevailing fire safety and building control regulations and approvals.

“We are sympathetic towards residents of historic developments in the requirement to bring the buildings up to current safety standards and are working constructively with both the residents and the council to find a solution.”

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