Grenfell Inquiry: Cladding design manager ‘can’t remember anything’ from facade fire lecture

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The design manager for the cladding specialists on the Grenfell Tower revamp has said he “can’t remember anything” from a detailed lecture on facade fires at an industry conference three years before the disaster.

Daniel Anketell-Jones said he may have effectively ignored a comprehensive presentation on cladding fires during the October 2014 event, because it was not technically part of his remit as a structural engineer, the inquiry into the blaze heard on Tuesday.

Mr Anketell-Jones, formerly of Harley Facades, had been working on the west London high-rise project for several months by this point, and the same year started an MSc in facade engineering – but told the inquiry his focus at the time was not on issues of fire.

Inquiry lawyer Kate Grange QC asked him about his attendance at the conference, hosted by the Centre for Window and Cladding Technology, (CWCT), and the presentation which outlined issues like methods of flame spread, safety regulations and real-life examples of cladding fires.

Mr Anketell-Jones said: “I can’t remember seeing it. I think because I was focused on structural design at that point, that’s where the focus of my continued learning was focused.

“I think I might have been there and not concentrating, because it wasn’t what I was trained in and not part of my remit.”

In relation to other cladding fires in France, Russia and Dubai, he added: “I can’t remember knowing about them at that point.”

Ms Grange asked: “If your remit was so narrow and limited to structural considerations, can you explain why you attended a CWCT event of this nature, including such wide-ranging topics?”

He replied: “No I can’t.”

The inquiry has heard Harley did not have a fully trained technical manager during the Grenfell refurbishment who could “assess the technical compliance of products”, despite being a specialist cladding subcontractor.

Mr Anketell-Jones was promoted to the role of technical manager “at the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016”, while part way through studying facade engineering at Bath University, but has said he did not consider it his job to approve materials “because I wasn’t qualified yet”.

He did not complete the qualification, including a course on fire, until 2017, after he had left Harley.

Mr Anketell-Jones said the cladding subcontractor was reliant on architects Studio E, fire consultants Exova, and ultimately Building Control, to make sure the designs and materials were compliant.

He said Harley did not investigate the drawings and specifications Studio E passed to them, adding: “We would have adopted it on the basis that they had done all the checks beforehand.

“You would have assumed that was the responsibility of the architect to make sure the design was compliant, and Building Control to check that design to sign it off.”