Charles Thomson’s flaunts his contempt for the local authority housing of the 1960s. Could it be that this attitude played into Studio 54’s decision to allocate the massive job of the over-clad of the Grenfell Tower to an unqualified staff member who admitted in the dock that he had neither familiarised himself with the relevant sections of the building regs, nor with the circumstances leading to previous fire disasters, the most recent having been in 2013, Lakanal house in Southwark, which had clear parallels with Grenfell?
His contempt is misplaced as witnessed by the satisfaction expressed by many of the survivors with the flats they occupied, despite K & C TRA’s dismissal of innumerable complaints of poor maintenance. For those of us still around who worked in the public sector in the ‘60s and strove to negotiate the severe, but fair constraints of the housing cost yardstick and Parker Morris space standards to produce humane environments, I can testify to the joy of receiving unsolicited messages of thanks from grateful occupants, enjoying the products of those labours.
Thomson makes very free with his insults of Emma Dent-Coad who is both a qualified architect, a K & C councillor and MP until the last election. He is on weak ground in accusing her of banality in arguing against value engineering, given that Studio 54 signed themselves into an agreement placing them in the position of lead consultant and that the suggestion for the change from zinc cladding to ‘something cheaper’ emanated from them. A little more contrition for lack of due diligence on his part would seem appropriate.
There are estimated to be 450 residential blocks in the country presenting exactly the same potential for an inferno and the incineration of occupants. In Leeds the fire brigade is pressing for the evacuation of 13 such blocks, as was done in Camden in the case of the 5 on the Chalcots Estate.
To the extent that architects were involved in any of these over-clads, he is right that any of them might find themselves in the dock. He is also right to point his finger at the ultimate responsibility of governments for their failure to act on Inspector’s reports from no less that 5 public enquires over a period of 26years, into fire disasters resulting from the use of flammable cladding. The findings from all 5 Inquires recommended the strengthening and clarification of building regs on fire-prevention and means of escape.
Therefore I agree with the survivors, that the Inquiry is examining the questions least central to the causes first; naturally the government wants to find scapegoats and distract attention from its irresponsible inaction.
Kate Macintosh retired architect
Well said George! But I disagree on the advised delay. If not now then when? In Scotland & Wales they scrapped R.toB. several years ago. Also needed are: scrub the bedroom tax, secure tenancies in the private sector and equalisation of VAT across new-build and refurb.
Does hee see himself as the new Caesar, that is Nero not Julius? or has he just been reading Roger Scruton?
Murphy is mistaken in saying that the problem arises from population increase. A former civil servant stayed on Channel 4 news that house building had out-paced population growth for many years. The problem lies in mal-distribution of the available stock & the perception of housing as an investment rather than a basic human right to decent shelter. Since 1979 gobs of every stripe have regarded inflation in the housing market as fundamental to the health of the economy. The result- generation rent at the mercy of the buy-to-let landlords.
Karen Redhead’s comment that Hammersmith College buildings have not stood the test of time does not reflect the reality of an extremely robust structure clad in low-maintenance engineering bricks including paving, which have withstood very well years of neglect. As a building 40 years in age its adaptable layout would lend itself well to an upgrade to enhance its environmental performance. As to the excess of space, it is unsurprising that applicants’ role has fallen in the light of uncertainty regarding the accommodation and the starvation by central government of funds to the F.E. education sector, however there are signs that this may be about to change.