Grenfell Tower: Anger as Downing Street lights up in tribute to fire victims in ‘empty gesture’

‘Green hearts and green lights won’t do enough to bring justice to the bereaved and the survivors’

Alessio Perrone
Friday 14 June 2019 19:00
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Number 10 turns green on Grenfell disaster's anniversary

Campaigners and survivors have reacted angrily after a green light was projected on to Downing Street in tribute to the victims of the Grenfell disaster, calling it an “empty gesture”.

The prime minister’s residence was illuminated along with several London town halls and landmarks to mark the second anniversary of the tragedy, which took place 14 June, 2017.

However, critics were quick to point out hundreds of tower blocks across England still have cladding similar to that blamed for spreading the flames up the tower block and creating an inferno that claimed 72 lives, thanks to inaction by authorities.

Last week, the inquiry into the disaster announced the publication of its first report would be delayed. Police have said no one will be prosecuted until it is completed.

A BBC report showed 328 tower blocks in England still had similar cladding to that used on Grenfell, and that work has not yet begun to remove it on 221 of them.

“There has been an enormous amount of empty gestures these days,” said Moyra Samuels, of the Justice4Grenfell campaign.

“It’s not good that ministers wear a green heart and then do nothing for the security of the buildings.

“Green hearts and green lights won’t do enough to bring justice to the bereaved and the survivors.”

Ms Samuels, who has lived in the area for 32 years, said it was time for authorities to implement safety recommendations such as adding alarms to all buildings and “stopping cuts to the fire service”.

She said there was frustration in the community about delays to the public inquiry and the criminal investigation into Grenfell.

Families say they feel the inquiry into the disaster has not delivered and argued their voices are not being heard.

The inquiry’s first report was due to be published in spring but has been delayed until October.

Clarita Ghavimi, who managed to escape from the tower block, said, “We know that many issues will need more expert evidence and further investigation.

“But some things can be done now – a full review of the ‘stay-put’ policy by the fire brigade, basic safety measures in high rise blocks, like clear signs, clearly marked floor numbers, effective emergency lighting, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

“These steps do not need more evidence. They should start now, and could save lives.”

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

On Wednesday night, the group also beamed warnings onto tower blocks across England where residents have raised concerns about flammable cladding, defective fire doors or a lack of sprinklers.

The group calls 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”.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government told the BBC: “The government has banned combustible materials in the external walls of new high-rise homes and guidance requires that sprinklers must be installed in new buildings above 30 metres.

“Building owners are ultimately responsible for the safety of the building and it is for them to decide whether to retrofit sprinklers.”

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Additional reporting by PA

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