A tragedy in London

A firefighter directs a jet of water at a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire in West London. Photo: Reuters
A firefighter directs a jet of water at Grenfell Tower. Photo from ODT files
The horrors of the Grenfell Tower fire are still being revealed but serious areas of neglect have already emerged.

Calls have been made for the Queen's speech to Parliament to include housing reform, something British Prime Minister Theresa May will be wise to consider.

The tenants of Grenfell Tower were among the poorest in London, but they were surrounded by some of the wealthiest residents.

Kensington and Chelsea Council has been relieved of the responsibility of taking care of the survivors of the disaster after the Conservative leader of the council resisted calls to resign in the wake of the fire.

Improvements to the UK housing market and building regulations should be a memorial to the many who suffered and died. The situation was complicated further yesterday when Chancellor Philip Hammond caused confusion by claiming the cladding used on the tower, which has been widely blamed for spreading the blaze, is banned in the UK

A Treasury spokesman later said although Mr Hammond said ``banned'', what he meant was it is banned for buildings of a certain height.

The chancellor was referring to a statement issued by the Department For Communities at the end of last week when it was asked to clarify the legal position. It said: ``Cladding using a composite aluminium panel with a polyethylene core would be non-compliant with current Building Regulations guidance. This material should not be used as cladding on buildings over 18m in height''.

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith told New Zealanders last week flammable aluminium cladding was only banned from multi-storey buildings in New Zealand earlier this year, following high-rise fires in Dubai and Melbourne.

The minister was told the systems are not prevalent in New Zealand. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is contacting councils to check whether any high-rise buildings have been constructed with the panels, he said.

However, there are still some in the building industry worried about claddings which do not meet regulations.

One of the issues prevalent in construction is product substitution, and this could potentially mean the use of a non-compliant panel that looks the same as a compliant panel but has a different core material.

It now appears similar panels have been in use in New Zealand and a search is under way to find where they are.

According to news reports, there are rows of homes built as investments standing empty in London while Kensington and Chelsea councillors seek to house victims outside their borough. Taxpayers Against Poverty is calling for the introduction of a law to match that in Denmark which requires the sale, or compulsory purchase, of any home remaining empty for six months or more. Every solution comes with its own set of difficulties.

So far, 58 people have been confirmed dead but the total is sure to grow as the emergency services push their way further into the tower. One lift, one set of stairs and one exit - along with no smoke alarms or sprinklers - means probably many were doomed to die. Reports also indicate the panels used in the $15million refit could have been upgraded to fire retardant panels for about $10,000.

Mrs May handled the situation badly, delaying her visit to the victims, rushing away when she was threatened, before finally agreeing to meet survivors at Number 10 Downing St. The Queen, who is 91, met personally with the victims and offered them true support in the face of adversity.

Riots continue outside the council offices and tempers remain frayed. Any investigation will take months, if not years, and manslaughter charges could be laid against the people responsible for cutting back on safety standards.

In Auckland, planning restrictions are being eased to allow developers to build upwards. The push to build affordable housing around New Zealand increases the chances of corners being cut. Kiwis complain about red-tape restricting their development aspirations. In the case of Grenfell Tower, the lack of regulations has doomed people to their death.



This is a terrible tragedy. Sadly being exploited by a variety of political interests. Left wing agitators on the ground whipping up anger. Left and Right wing media both using this tragedy to attack Theresa May rather than having any compassion for the people involved. Theresa May was told to stay away at first as the police didn't want the added headache of providing security for her while trying to deal with a massive emergency.