Anger as Grenfell Tower fire review fails to urge cladding ban

A report into the Grenfell Tower fire has stopped short of calling for an outright ban on the flammable cladding blamed for the blaze’s spread.

The decision of the review, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, was met with anger by members of the public.

Some 71 people died in the blaze on June 14 last year.

The review concluded that indifference and ignorance led a “race to the bottom” in building safety practices with cost prioritised over safety.

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Shahin Sadafi, chairman of Grenfell United, said: “Worrying that a fire like Grenfell could happen again is something that keeps many of us awake at night.

He added: “This isn’t just about cladding – the whole system of building regulation is broken.

“The industry has too much influence over regulation and testing, desk-top studies are totally flawed, profit is valued more than people’s safety, and residents are left powerless. All of this must change.”

Dame Judith’s report called for greater clarity and tighter policing of guidance already in place, which says cladding must be made of material of limited combustibility.

Responding to criticism that her report failed to recommend the banning of combustible cladding, Dame Judith Hackitt said: “If people feel I haven’t gone far enough and for this system to work in the future requires, in addition, that there is further clarity or indeed banning of some of the materials which are currently used, I don’t have a problem with that.

“What I will be disappointed about is if people think simply banning cladding is going to fix this problem.

“It is a broken system and banning cladding on its own is not going to fix it.”

She said non-compliant materials have found their way through the system, adding: “If we simply ban some more of those materials we will not resolve a problem which is actually about a broken system.”

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The report has called for “tougher sanctions” for breaches of fire safety regulations as part of “a much stronger regulatory regime for high-rise buildings that recognises that there is an inherently high level of risk involved”, said Dame Judith.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) last month told the Government that it was concerned the review will not deliver the key changes it says are needed to protect the public.

It called for a ban on flammable cladding, a requirement for sprinklers to be fitted and a second means of escape for high-rise residential buildings.

Cladding fuelled the spread of the fire and a subsequent safety operation identified hundreds more buildings with similar set-ups.

Theresa May announced on Wednesday the Government will fully fund the removal and replacement of dangerous cladding materials from tower blocks by councils and housing associations.

The work is expected to cost about £400 million and will cover removal and replacement of cladding at 158 high-rise blocks in the social sector in England.

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