Grenfell: Project ‘seemed a straightforward design and build’
The Grenfell Tower refurbishment project seemed a “straightforward” and “very ordinary” design and build contract, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard.
That was according to Peter Maddison, who was a director at the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) between 2013 and 2017, and was giving a third day of evidence to the Inquiry yesterday (26 October).
Maddison said he was “so sorry” for the impact that the fire on 14 June 2017 that killed 72 people had on people’s lives. Asked by lead counsel to the Inquiry Richard Millett what he would have done differently on the project in hindsight, he said: “Knowing what I know now, there’s no way that we would ever have clad that building with anything that was flammable (sic).
“This was a traditional design and build contract that seemed very straightforward and very ordinary in many ways, and that it’s ended up in this tragedy is just devastating.”
Maddison faced questions about main contractor Rydon’s £9.2m bid for the scheme, which he denied was “unrealistically low”, even though it was several hundred thousand pounds below those of Durkan (£9.9m) and Mulalley (£10.4m).
Millett asked Maddison if the TMO’s board had expressed concern about Rydon’s price being so much lower than the other bidders.
Maddison said: “I think the board was asking for clarification, asking sensible questions looking at the information that was in front of them…I wouldn’t say they were concerned. They asked whether I thought and whether the professional team thought that the price was sustainable, and the advice as we had taken from [employer’s agent] Artelia was that they felt that it was.”
Millett later went on to ask if it was “doubly important” to make sure that Rydon’s bid was sustainable, given that the TMO’s budget was £800,000 lower than Rydon’s price and that further savings would need to be found.
Maddison said: “I don’t think anybody thought it was unsustainably low. It felt like…the grouping of the tenders was relatively close…it was assumed that…there was due consideration given to this as part of the financial evaluation, I understand, through the quantity surveyors, and so I wasn’t aware that there was any risk of it being an unsustainably low tender.”
Millett said: “Well, we have your lawyers [Trowers and Hamlins] pointing out to you that Rydon submitted a much lower tender price than the other bidders and asking you the question whether you thought it might be abnormally low, and that’s at £9.2m. Did it not occur to ask yourself, ‘Even if the £9.2m is not in fact abnormally low, there’s a real risk that at £800,000 less, it might very well be unsustainable’? Did you not have that thought?”
Maddison replied: “I gave thought to whether the price was sustainable, and this had been discussed and evaluated in detail by a set of quantity surveyors and my team, and…nobody has raised this as a significant concern. Trowers quite rightly here are saying, ‘Have you thought of this ?’ The answer is, ‘Yes, we’ve thought of it and we think it looks okay’.”
The Inquiry continues.