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Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Grenfell bosses told in 2009 escaping would be very difficult and people fleeing fire could face ‘dead ends’

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A apprehensive councillor had tried to lift issues about how people may escape from a fire on the Grenfell Tower after a deadly blaze in a special housing block in 2009, a public inquiry has heard.

Local councillor Judith Blakeman outlined her fears in an electronic mail to Robert Black who was the chief government of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) from 2009 to December 2017 and to director of housing Laura Johnson a day after a fire at Lakanal House in Camberwell, south London, on July 3 2009 in which six people died.

In the e-mail Ms Blakeman spoke of her fears that people who’re attempting to flee in a fire might face a “useless finish” and she invitations each officers to hitch her on a visit to the highest ground of Grenfell Tower in west London to see the issue for themselves.

In an electronic mail addressed to Mr Black and Ms Johnson, she states: “In gentle of the tragic fire yesterday in Camberwell I would be grateful if we will have a threat evaluation and report on the technique of escape in the occasion of fire masking all of the tower blocks in TMO’s possession inside the borough.

“At Grenfell Tower, for instance, due to the council workplaces on the decrease flooring, getting out of this constructing by the steps is extraordinarily difficult and one can find yourself at a useless finish.

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“I would invite you to accompany me as much as the highest ground to see how difficult it would be to get out of this block in the occasion of an emergency.”

A fire on the Grenfell Tower block in west London in June 2017 claimed 72 lives.

Ms Johnson told the inquiry, which is analyzing the circumstances main as much as and surrounding the fire, that she didn’t bear in mind getting the e-mail.

The council was the proprietor and landlord of Grenfell Tower.

The TMO was the organisation appointed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) to run its total council housing inventory.

Ms Johnson was the RBKC’s director of housing when the Grenfell Tower fire befell.

She labored for RBKC from February 2009 till September 2017.

Ms Johnson’s response to Ms Blakeman was {that a} working celebration would be finishing up a assessment of the fire threat assessments of the communal areas of the council blocks.

Richard Millett QC, lead counsel to the Inquiry, requested: “In gentle of Ms Blakeman’s electronic mail did you particularly direct anybody on the TMO to undertake a threat evaluation of the technique of escape in TMO-managed tower blocks?”

Ms Johnson mentioned she “didn’t bear in mind”.

On whether or not she took up the supply to go together with Ms Blakeman to the highest ground of Grenfell Tower, Ms Johnson told the listening to: “I don’t consider I did.”

When requested why, Ms Johnson added: “I don’t know.”

Mr Millett mentioned: “A critical and deadly fire had occurred two days beforehand.

“She (Ms Blakeman) has recognized a selected dangerous constructing and, even with out the good thing about hindsight, why would you not have thought to your self ‘here’s a councillor with a constructing in her ward which she is anxious about, I higher take a look at it myself’.”

Ms Johnson added: “I’m afraid I actually don’t bear in mind this electronic mail from 2009 and don’t bear in mind my thought course of on how I responded to councillor Blakeman, all I can see is what’s written right here.”

She believed she would have spoken to Mr Black and Janice Wray, the TMO’s well being and security supervisor, about it however added “clearly right here I haven’t taken up her supply of taking a visit to the highest ground of Grenfell Tower”.

Ms Johnson was requested if it was truthful to say that from the time of the Lakanal House fire that she was personally conscious that issues had been expressed concerning the adequacy of escape routes from Grenfell Tower.

Ms Johnson replied: “I’m conscious that it was raised in this explicit electronic mail however I don’t bear in mind being regularly conscious of it all through my time as director of housing at RBKC.”

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) issued a deficiency discover referring to Grenfell Tower in November 2016, after an inspection of the constructing that month, which was to be complied with by May 2017.

Ms Johnson famous that two flat entrances have been recognized as not self-closing and accepted she didn’t respect that upkeep was a problem.

She mentioned the TMO sought to rectify these issues.

The inquiry heard that many doorways which ought to have been self-closing and wanted restore, alternative or adjustment however Ms Johnson mentioned that price was not her best concern.

She mentioned price was “all the time a consideration” because the finances had appreciable shortfalls and obligations however “there was by no means dispute at RBKC about paying for any measures that have been required for well being and security.”


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Ms Johnson needed to push the set up of door closers to change into a 5 yr as an alternative of a three-year programme with no inspections.

On what was her view on the LFB’s clear recommendation on the necessity to preserve and examine self-closing units, Ms Johnson mentioned: “I don’t bear in mind precisely what my views have been in March 2017 however all I can say is I used to be clearly in error.

“I accepted the truth that we wanted a door nearer programme and that one ought to be put in place.

“I needed to try this with the complete understanding of the authorized recommendation required in order to realize entry significantly to leaseholder doorways however what I actually needed to know was whether or not statutorily we wanted to do an inspection programme.”

The listening to was adjourned to immediately (Thursday, May 13).

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