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Grenfell United hugely disappointed after engineer replaces architect on inquiry panel

Grenfell tower tribute wall chiraljon flickr
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Community group Grenfell United has said it is ‘hugely disappointing’ that an architect lined up for the Grenfell Tower Inquiry panel has been replaced by an engineer

The campaigners claimed the ‘big change’ to the panel line-up had been made without a ‘proper explanation’ and that it showed the wishes of the fire’s survivors were being ignored.

Architect Nabeel Hamdi had been due to sit on the three-person panel for phase two of the inquiry, which is due to start early this year.

Hamdi is an emeritus professor of housing at Oxford Brookes University who, according to the university, qualified as an architect at the Architectural Association in 1968. He worked for the Greater London Council between 1969 and 1978, where his housing projects cemented his reputation ‘in participatory design and planning’.

But a letter sent by prime minister Boris Johnson to inquiry chair Martin Moore-Bick revealed that Hamdi was ‘unable to proceed with the appointment’ with engineer Benita Mehra proposed as a replacement.

Moore-Bick has since confirmed the appointment of Mehra, who will now give up her job as director of strategic assets at the London Ambulance Service to take part in the inquiry.

Moore-Bick will also sit on the panel, which is completed by Thouria Istephan, partner and deputy head of technical design at Foster + Partners.

Grenfell United said the replacement of a community-minded expert with an engineer was ‘not what is needed’, adding that ‘yet again wishes of survivors and bereaved have been sidelined’. 

A spokesperson for the Grenfell Tower Inquiry did not respond to a request for comment.

Phase two of the inquiry will focus on the circumstances and causes of the fire in June 2017, while phase one, which wrapped up in October, only sought to establish what happened on the night itself.

In his letter to Moore-Bick, Johnson also said the government would publish its formal response to the inquiry’s phase one report and its recommendation ‘once Parliament has returned from the Christmas break’.

He said the response would include information on different legislative options for implementing recommendations made by Moore-Bick and Judith Hackitt. 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Industry Professional

    Is the replacement engineer Benita Mehra who was the immediate Past President of WES (the Women's Engineering Society)?

    (CEng, FIET, BSc, MSc, MBA, FWES, FIHEEM)

    Apparently, "having attained an engineering degree over 25 years ago, Benita Mehra has operated in the aviation, housing and health sectors with roles including design and construction of major terminal buildings, used her masters in project management to formalise her on the job skills. Realising that building projects lead to maintaining, she took on the responsibility of the runaways at Heathrow airport and their fleet of fire tenders, all safety critical and highly important to the running of a airport. She attained her chartership at the IET, decided to attain an MBA. Benita then moved sectors into social housing and has now moved again into health where she is responsible for their property portfolio and its strategy. Benita was elected as President of WES on 10th October 2015 and became a Fellow of WES in 2016."

    If I have the correct person, she does not seem too inappropriate a choice although I am surprised she is a member of the IET. My Dad was a member and I associate the IET more with electrical engineering and technology rather than with building fabric and architecture.

    I would have thought that an Architect who specialises in fire engineering would be the ideal person.

    I suspect suspicion of Boris does not help with the confidence of Grenfell United.

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  • Nothing at all against Benita Mehra - but very many things for Nabs Hamdi. And surely the panel needs someone with a basket of experience more like Hamdi's to balance the team. Forgetting these highly respected individuals, it hints at a change in performance specification. Suspicion of anything/anyone is not useful on the enquiry panel at this point.

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