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‘We cannot be ignored’ – Grenfell United lights up towers to demand action


Tower blocks in cities across the UK were illuminated with messages last night (12 June) as survivors and bereaved families of the Grenfell Tower disaster urged immediate action on fire safety 

Ahead of the second anniversary of the fire, which killed 72 people, huge projections were beamed on high-rises in London, Greater Manchester and Newcastle demanding they are made safe. 

Organised by campaign group Grenfell United, each message highlighted genuine safety concerns of the residents who live in the block – from dangerous cladding, to a lack of sprinklers and defective fire doors.

Natasha Elcock, chair of Grenfell United chair and a survivor from the tower, said: ‘We needed to send a strong message. It’s been two years since Grenfell, and people are still going to bed at night worried that a fire like Grenfell could happen to them.

‘After the fire, we were promised that blocks would be made safe. Two years later we cannot wait any longer, we need action now so everyone is safe in their homes.’

It comes as anger mounts over government inaction on fire safety. Two years on from the fire, hundreds of tower blocks across the UK remain wrapped in Grenfell-style cladding.

The government recently admitted that cladding had only been removed from 13 out of 146 private high-rises, compared with 56 out of 158 social sector buildings.

Despite calls for tower blocks to be retrofitted with sprinklers, according to the London Fire Brigade’s union, only 32 out of 837 council tower blocks over 30m tall have sprinklers.

In Manchester, a message was beamed on to the NV Buildings in Salford Quays, where residents have been told by the fire service the cladding is flammable.

While the government last month announced a £200 million fund to remove combustible cladding from private towers, it only covers ACM (aluminium composite material) and not the cladding used at NV Buildings. 

Residents in the award-winning blocks, designed by Broadway Malyan, built by Carillion and developed by Countryside Properties, have been told they must foot the bill for the material to be stripped off. 

David Clifford, a former resident from NV Buildings told the AJ: ’Since finding out our homes were built using dangerous Grenfell style flammable cladding back in December 2017, our lives have been on hold.

’We cannot sleep at night due to the worries and stress of a fire. We cannot sell our properties as they are unmortgageable, and to top it off we the residents are being sent the bill to have the cladding removed.’

Campaign group Manchester Cladiators, which represents 12 blocks in the city with fire safety concerns, said there are many buildings like NV which are not covered by the ACM removal fund.

‘Many people are still living in dangerous buildings and facing the bills for correction, life-changing bills of up to £80k each.

‘After the fire last weekend in Barking, coupled with Grenfell’s two year anniversary we feel we all blocks in the UK must demand more from the government in order to improve the safety for residents in high rise buildings.’

In Newcastle, the projection on to Cruddas Park House, a 25 storey block read ‘2 years after Grenfell and the fire doors in this building still don’t work’.

The projections also appeared in London such as Frinstead House, a 20-storey block metres away from Grenfell Tower on the Silchester Estate which read: ’2 years after Grenfell, this block still has no sprinklers’.

Karim Mussilhy, vice-chair of Grenfell United, whose uncle died in the fire said: ‘Our message to the government is simple but we needed the biggest possible platform to make them listen.

‘Last week I visited residents in Newcastle and I heard how they were raising concerns but being ignored. That’s what happened to residents in Grenfell before the fire. We have to change the culture in social housing so people are treated with respect.

‘By raising our voices together and uniting blocks across the country, we cannot be ignored. We are so proud to stand alongside residents in Newcastle and Manchester who have been campaigning to be heard. 

‘Two years after Grenfell we are coming together and our voices can only get louder.’

Broadway Malyan declined to comment.

The co-ordinated projections marked the launch of a new Grenfell United campaign Demand Change. Its aims are:

  • Safe fire doors in all blocks, sprinklers in blocks to keep fire escapes clear 
  • All dangerous cladding to be removed.
  • For the government to introduce a new separate housing regulator that would put residents concerns over the profits of housing associations and ensure residents were listened to and their issues acted upon.

Grenfell manchester 3210 copy

Grenfell manchester 3210 copy

Source: Grenfell United

‘2 years after Grenfell and this building is still covered in dangerous cladding’: Message on NV Buildings in Salford Quays, Manchester 


Readers' comments (4)

  • Industry Professional

    Back in 1995 I was involved with replacing the windows on 4 towers of the Silchester Estate, of which Frinstead House is one. I recall that they do at least have concrete cladding panels. One of the jobs to do involved removing asbestos panels around the windows. I presume the campaign is to get sprinklers added to all 4 towers.
    Regarding the demand for residents elsewhere to pay for the replacement of cladding, I recall a few months ago the Minster publicly saying this would not be allowed...……..

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  • He’s not called Brokenshire for nothing...Brokencountry for PM.

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  • It would be really helpful if this article quoted BRE/RIBA/RICS position on the lack of progress. If parliament cant multi-task beyond Brexit, what has the industry done to keep pressure on the government? Are we waiting for another tragedy??

    Institutions want us to communicate via them, rather than airing dirty linen on the streets, so its time for a full update. AJ can you please run this story? Thank you

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  • In answer to your query, yes, it appears that we are waiting for another wholly avoidable flammable cladding fire, in which it is quite likely there will be further fatalities. At which point public opinion may coalesce to the point of XR-type demonstrations, and an idealistic teenager may step forward to beseech the adults to do the right thing.

    It’s important to understand that Grenfell is a systemic failure in which the three institutions you cite are also embroiled. Successive governments have pursued neoliberal policies of deregulation and privatisation, which have resulted in the parlous state of mass fatalities in a building fire. Johnson and Javid are now promising further deregulation and presumably privatisation to pay for tax cuts.

    Months before Grenfell, BRE (privatised in 1997) reported to government that the regulations for high rise fire prevention were satisfactory, while conducting lucrative certification consultancy for the insulation industry. I think that is known as running with the fox while hunting with the hound in common parlance, or a conflict of interest (occasioned by privatisation). See Sky News coverage and the Grenfell United website for further commentary.

    Meanwhile the construction industry has changed beyound recognition to point where architects are working for builders, as marginalised sub-contractors. But judges still think that architects are responsible for the specification of materials in buildings (see the recent Lacrosse Fire case), and everyone has forgotten what a Clerk of Works is, or was.

    In summary, it’s a perfect storm which will go on for decades (see Hillsborough case), until the idealistic teenager steps forward to say ‘enough’. Alternatively, the Grenfell survivors may win their multimillion dollar civil lawsuits and the moneymen may wake up, but it’s more likely that your profession indemnity insurance premiums will rise dramatically (and that will take weeks rather than decades)!

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