Studio E Architects is among a number of firms accused of attempting to derail the Grenfell Tower Inquiry with a wall of ‘corporate silence’ after it failed to provide an opening statement to the hearing
Many of the 19 ‘core participant’ firms involved in the £10 million refit of the tower have refused to comment on their work until they have full disclosure of documents, the inquiry heard yesterday.
But these subcontractors faced a barrage of criticism from lawyers representing survivors and the bereaved, who slammed the building firms over their failure to set out their position, especially on the key question of compliance.
In a blistering attack on the companies, Stephanie Barwise QC said: ‘Despite their words of condolence to the victims, these corporates have no desire to assist this inquiry, even though their participation could save lives in the immediate future.’
She added: ‘The corporates’ silence deprives the families of the degree of resolution and understanding to which they are entitled, and has only served to increase their pain and uncertainty.’
On Monday, an expert witness told the inquiry that the design and installation of cladding on the refurbished Grenfell Tower were not compliant with the Building Regulations.
But in its submission to the inquiry, Rydon, the main contractor for the refurbishment, did not say whether its refurbishment had breached regulations, and claimed that it was not responsible for critical decisions related to the cladding.
Barwise argued it would have been up to Rydon or its contractors to ‘consider the degree of resistance to fire necessary’, adding: ‘It is therefore disingenuous of Rydon to suggest that someone else made all the critical decisions before it became involved and it was stuck with them.’
Naming Studio E as well as façade manufacturer CEP and installer Harley along with Rydon, she said: ‘These parties make no comment on the detailed criticisms of their work, nor do they even comment on drawings which they themselves drafted.
‘It is inhumane to remain silent when so many seek understanding and answers – answers which are within the corporates’ gift.’
Her criticism was later echoed by Pete Weatherby QC - who is representing other survivors and residents - who told the inquiry it was ‘a surprise’ that Studio E had not provided an opening statement.
‘’This is a public search for the truth,’ he said. ‘It’s not a game of cat and mouse. We call on all of the corporates who have yet to do so to set out most fully their positions in their opening statements.’
Danny Friedman QC, also representing bereaved, survivors and relatives, later reiterated how none of those behind the refurbishment works had taken any responsibility, and accused the local council and the tenant management organisation of overseeing the refurbishment of a ‘death trap’.
‘They [the council and TMO] did so using public funds, paid to an array of professionals, contractors and subcontractors, none of whom have yet accepted any responsibility for their part in what happened.’
The ongoing inquiry into the fire in west London, which caused 72 deaths, is at the start of a fact-finding stage with opening statements being heard throughout this week.
In a statement last year, Studio E said: ‘We will be available to assist the relevant authorities as and when we are required.’
The practice has been approached for comment.