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Fire safety experts felt Grenfell revamp made poor condition worse, inquiry told

Internal emails revealed concerns about the proposed refurbishment of the north Kensington block several years before the fatal fire.

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The fire in the Grenfell Tower in west London in 2017 left 72 people dead (PA)

The fire in the Grenfell Tower in west London in 2017 left 72 people dead (PA)

The fire in the Grenfell Tower in west London in 2017 left 72 people dead (PA)

The refurbishment plan for Grenfell Tower was described as “making a crap condition worse” by fire safety experts, an inquiry has heard.

Internal emails from fire safety company Exova detailed concerns about the design for the north Kensington block by architects Studio E.

It explained the design was “adding additional levels which merges uses around a single stair”, which was described as “not great”.

The messages were sent by Cate Cooney to an Exova colleague following a conversation with architect Bruce Sounes in 2012.

Grenfell Tower
Grenfell Tower, pictured in May 2011 (PA)

She also pointed out there was no intention to install sprinklers.

The email, read to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry on Wednesday, continued: “Basically I have told him we can massage the proposals to something acceptable with separation, lobbies etc…

“They are making an existing crap condition worse, so it’s a matter of working the worse bits out and making the new stuff work.”

She added: “No sprinklers wanted.”

Mr Sounes said the email “raises a level of concern I was not aware of”.

He told the hearing: “I don’t think I was aware of it, even in the report.”

Mr Sounes was also asked whether Studio E had considered installing sprinklers in the 24-storey block, but said “it wouldn’t be something we would hold a view on”.

He added: “We would have expected the fire consultant to recommend or building control to advise any requirement.

“I don’t recall sprinklers being discussed or raised as something that may be needed.

Grenfell Tower
A total of 72 people were killed when fire raged through Grenfell Tower in 2017 (PA)

“That’s not to say it wasn’t discussed.”

Exova was recruited by Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) to give fire safety advice on the Grenfell refurbishment.

On Tuesday, the inquiry into the 2017 fire which killed 72 people heard Mr Sounes “can’t recall” whether he knew there were different fire regulations for high-rise buildings.

Mr Sounes was asked by Kate Grange QC, counsel to the inquiry: “Were you aware that there might be different rules that applied to buildings over 18 metres…?”

He replied: “No, I was aware that they may exist but I did not refer to [the document] at the time.

“I can’t recall if I was aware of that.”

When asked whether he read the Government guidelines on building and fire regulations – also known as approved document B – during the Grenfell project, Mr Sounes said: “I referred to it on occasion but I certainly didn’t read it from start to finish.

“Because it’s so wide ranging, an architect will find themselves referring to specific sections to try and understand whether they are meeting their requirements.”

The hearings continue.

PA