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Fosters partner and housing academic join Grenfell Inquiry panel

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Theresa May has directly appointed a partner at Foster + Partners to sit alongside the head of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry panel 

The prime minister announced today that she had appointed two new specialists to the inquiry’s second phase: Thouria Istephan (pictured left), CDM manager at Fosters, and Nabeel Hamdi (right), a professor in housing and planning.

They will join chairman Martin Moore-Bick, the retired high court judge who presided over Phase 1, which looked at events on the night of the tragedy in June 2017.

May’s decision to widen the panel for the technical phase of the inquiry follows pressure from survivors and families of victims – a call backed by a 156,000-strong petition. 

Istephan has been at Fosters since 1997, working on projects such as the Stirling Prize-winning Bloomberg building and research projects on CDM Regulations, fire and façade access.

Hamdi, an Architectural Association graduate, worked on housing at the Greater London Council and was previously associate professor of housing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The academic has an international reputation as a ‘participatory planning pioneer’ and has written a number of books on grassroots development.

He has consulted on housing, participatory action planning and upgrading of slums in cities to all major international development agencies, charities and NGOs.

Grenfell United, a group representing survivors and families of the bereaved, welcomed the appointments on Twitter, describing them as ‘another step forward in our campaign for truth and justice’.

May, who had previously rejected calls for additional panel members, said: ‘I am confident these new appointments will ensure the inquiry panel has the diversity of skills and experience necessary for the scope and complexity of issues to be investigated by Phase 2 of the inquiry’s work.

’This will help get to the truth of what happened, deliver justice and ensure that a tragedy like the fire in Grenfell Tower can never happen again,’ she said.

In a letter to Moore-Bick, May explained that she was widening the panel to ensure it had the ‘necessary breadth of skills and diversity of experience relevant to the broad range of issues to be considered in phase 2’.

In November, former RIBA president Paul Hyett was appointed as an expert witness to the inquiry. He has been tasked with producing a report investigating the ‘architectural design’ of the tower’s controversial refurbishment.

Phase 2 of the inquiry will examine how the housing block came to be in such a dangerous condition, and is scheduled to start in January 2020.

Grenfell in green

Grenfell in green 

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Given that the astonishingly terrible Grenfell Tower tragedy could surely only have happened with the help of some degree of complacency within quite a wide spectrum of professions in the building design and construction milieu in this country, it would surely be prudent to seek additional expert advice from beyond these shores, as well as from the well qualified and impartial people mentioned here.

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  • Good point Robert... the fire was a systemic failure that implicates, and possibly incriminates a wide range of Establishment figures and institutions. I think we have to start with Margaret Thatcher’s embrace of Neoliberalism forty years ago, which together with privatisation and deregulation created the circumstances for the fire...a perfect storm, as it were.

    Added to this lethal cocktail is PFI, which marginalised design and construction quality, not to mention architects and clerks of works. Austerity policies also played their part.

    And the BRE (privatised in 1997) must be mentioned, as they saw no reason to revise the (privatised) building regulations in their report to government just months before the fire, but subsequently broke lucrative testing ties with the insulation industry, shortly after the fire. BRE’s alleged role was reported well by Sky News. Finally, is it a coincidence that BRE’s Chief Executive (Peter Bonfield) resigned shortly after Grenfell, for pastures new?

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