Grenfell survivors’ lawyer attacks contractors’ attitudes
The construction companies involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower have been criticised for their “silence” by Stephanie Barwise QC, one of the legal representatives of the survivors of last year’s disaster.
Speaking as part of the opening statement on behalf of the bereaved, survivors and residents of Grenfell Tower, Barwise was highly critical of the attitude towards the Inquiry of design and build contractor Rydon, subcontractors CEP and Harley Facades, and designer Studio E.
Barwise said that CEP had claimed it could not participate at all in until it had “full disclosure” and that it was also “disingenuous” to “plead inability to comment on the compliance of its own work”.
The same applied to Harley and Studio E, she added.
Barwise said: “These parties make no comment on the detailed criticisms of their work, nor do they even comment on drawings which they themselves drafted.
“The time has come – indeed, is overdue – for the contractors and suppliers to clearly state their positions, and also to respond to the positions taken by others. Their stance that they need more than the documents they already have before engaging at all with any of the criticisms made of them is untenable and disingenuous.
“The corporates’ silence deprives the families [of the victims] of the degree of resolution and understanding to which they are entitled and has only served to increase their pain and uncertainty.”
Barwise described how Rydon was retained to carry out preliminary facade design work, obtain planning permission, and prepare a mock-up of the cladding. “It was to be paid £350,000 under the agreement, of which £35,000 was expressly referable to those items. Such work was expressed by the preconstruction agreement to be carried out under the terms of the design and build contract to be entered in due course,” she said.
“Whether or not others had suggested or dictated the use of certain materials, Rydon would anyway have been under an obligation implied either by the design and build contract and/or the preconstruction agreement to warn The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) if the materials were unsuitable or hazardous or non-compliant.”
She also highlighted that Studio E’s specifications had previously required that higher quality materials were used, with fire-resistant Celotex FR5000, not RS5000, was originally specified. The rainscreen cladding proposed for the pandrel and column panels was an aluminium honeycomb core bonded between two zinc skins.
Barwise said: “Rydon was asked to submit alternative costs for Reynobond over Alucobond and zinc but, as detailed designer of the cladding, it would have been for Rydon or its subcontractors to consider the degree of resistance to fire necessary and to warn if it considered them insufficient.”