Councils scrambling to reassure residents in light of Grenfell Tower disaster

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The horrendous fire at Grenfell Tower, which has claimed the lives of many people, has forced numerous councils around the UK to check the cladding used on various high-rise tower blocks. The reality at this moment in time is that the same type of cladding appears to have been used on other high-rise tower blocks. It is unclear whether the cladding contains a mineral or polyethylene core which is currently the centre of an investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire.

Regulatory gaps

Even days after the Grenfell Tower there are conflicting reports as to whether the cladding used at Grenfell Tower was legal under UK building regulations. On one hand we have regulators and politicians suggesting more needs to be done on the safety front with others insinuating the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was illegal. It has to be said at this moment in time there is no proof that the contractors who carried out the £10 million facelift of Grenfell Tower acted out with UK building laws. Obviously this is the centre of a serious criminal investigation and we will no doubt hear more information in due course.

Initially it was thought that the cladding used at Grenfell Tower was legal in the UK but illegal on buildings of a certain height in places such as Germany and the US.

Reassuring residents

While councils across the UK have an obligation to reassure their residents that any cladding on their high-rise property is safe, at this moment in time they seem unable to clarify the situation. We have some councils acknowledging that the same type of cladding was used on the exterior of other high-rise tower blocks but there are as yet unaware of the core material. In many ways this is making a difficult situation even worse!

This is not the first time we have seen a serious fire in a high-rise tower block and while many believe lessons had been learned, recent events may contradict this. It is known that a number of proposed changes to the health and safety and building regulations were dismissed by politicians in years gone by. Whether the independent investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire will identify any potential negligence on behalf of politicians remains to be seen.

Rebuilding confidence

It will take time but councils across the UK are currently checking all high-rise tower blocks with regards to the type of cladding and the material used. While this may cause some uncertainty and confusion in the short term it is something which needs to be done as this is not a time for burying your head in the sand. A thorough review of the Grenfell Tower fire together with updates to the health and safety and building regulations may also go some way to rebuilding confidence.

Those who were involved in any way in the Grenfell Tower will have horrendous memories of a disaster which many believe was avoidable. Time will tell whether any lapse in regulations or safety issues contributed to the disaster but now is not the time to be playing the blame game.

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