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Grenfell: No evidence of Rydon response to ‘Lakanal’ fears email

22 July 2020

There is no evidence that Rydon employees working on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment responded to an email seeking clarification on cladding fire safety.

The message from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) asked about the fire resistance of the cladding proposed for the refurbishment, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry heard.

Claire Williams from the TMO wrote an email to former Rydon contracts manager Simon Lawrence on 12 November 2014, copying Philip Booth at landlord’s agent Artelia, in which she asked for clarification after having what she described as a “Lakanal moment”.

Six people were killed and at least 20 injured in July 2009 when there was a fire at the Lakanal House tower block in Camberwell, London. An inspection of the building following the fire revealed breaches of fire-resistant structures, a lack of compartmentation in the suspended ceilings, and failure to provide smoke seals on fire doors.

Leading council to the Inquiry, Richard Millett QC, asked Lawrence what connection he made, if any, between the fire retardance of the cladding on Grenfell Tower and Lakanal House.

Lakanal question

Lawrence replied: “Only the fact that Lakanal House had a fire, no more connection than that.”

He added that he regarded the email as specifically relating to glass-reinforced concrete (GRC) cladding at the bottom section of the tower and not cladding over all, because there had been conversations about the TMO’s concerns about the robustness of the cladding on the lower floors and the risk of external fire, for example from bins.

Millett asked: “How do you get from the email that her concern arising from her ‘Lakanal moment’ related only to the fire retardance of the cladding on the lower parts of the building?”

Lawrence said that this was because the email referenced GRC products and that such products were only used on the bottom of the building around the columns up to around 6m. “It [the email] specifically says GRC products,” he added.

Millett went on: “Yes, it also says: ‘Compliance standard: The Centre for Window and Cladding Technology (CWCT) Standard for systemised 10 building envelopes’.”

Lawrence replied: “I read that as GRC products only. Maybe wrongly, but that’s how I read it and read it now.”

No record of reply

Millett then probed Lawrence on his response and pointed out that there was no record of any reply by the witness to the question or request for clarification.

Lawrence said: “I would have assumed that I would have taken that email, because I wouldn’t have answered it directly , and I would have passed that to probably Harleys [sub contractor Harley Curtain Wall]…It’s not one that I could answer from a technical point of view…I would keep Claire and Philip copied in, Claire particularly.”

But Millett countered: “So you say you would have sent it to Harley. We find now record of you passing it on to Harley to say: ‘Please help me advise my client. Can you explain that?”

Lawrence replied: “No.”

The Inquiry continues.