Grenfell residents sent survey on cladding colour but not type, inquiry hears

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Grenfell residents were asked what colour they would like the cladding to be, but not given a choice on materials, an inquiry has heard.

People who lived in the west London block were given several options about the appearance of the flammable cladding when they were sent a questionnaire by Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) – who were responsible for running the council’s housing on their behalf.

The survey was shown as part of evidence given by Paul Dunkerton, who worked as a project manager for the KCTMO during some of the refurbishment works.

The questions, sent to residents by the TMO in the summer of 2012, asked ‘What do you think the external cladding should look like’ and gave options including: “Colourful, robust, white aluminium, not reflective, leave as is”.

In a newsletter that July, the question was used as the basis for the statement: “There is no clear opinion about the colour or type of external cladding”.

Pushed by inquiry lawyer Andrew Kinnier QC, Mr Dunkerton was asked: “Do you agree that residents were not consulted on the type of cladding, they were simply asked about the colour?”

He suggested residents were given other opportunities to discuss the type of cladding, and recalled meetings where samples were laid out on tables to be seen and touched up close.

“At this particular newsletter they didn’t say that, but they were advised about the types of cladding.”

When asked about the discrepancy between the question asked and the assertion given about colour and type of cladding, Mr Dunkerton said the survey was to gauge opinion on “specific questions to target the residents’ feel of the colour scheme for the display of the tower”.

“The samples were available for residents to feel and touch,” he added.

The aluminium composite material (ACM) panels used on Grenfell had a thermoplastic-filled core and had a heat combustion akin to diesel.

The inquiry has already found that they fuelled the inferno at Grenfell Tower in June 2017, which claimed 72 lives.

At one meeting, in July 2012, just one resident turned up to speak to staff from KCTMO, but Mr Dunkerton believed there to be “heavy resident consultation” throughout the project.

In his statement to the inquiry, Mr Dunkerton, who left the organisation in 2013, said: “Residents were consulted about matters including a new canopy, the communal areas, security, cladding, the children’s play area, flat sizing, gas, heating, hot water and windows.”

He added during the evidence session: “I did evening sessions with the residents with the project team, during working hours drop-in sessions, we set up a project room within the base of Grenfell Tower displaying proposals of designs.

“There was the newsletters that we drafted out.”

Monday’s session also heard that when leaseholders raised concerns about the compliance of fire doors, their questions were left unanswered for two months.

In December 2012, representatives from the Grenfell Tower Leaseholders Association told the TMO: “We are confused as to whether the current doors are fit for purpose” having been informed that it was their responsibility to ensure compliance with regulations.

That message was followed up in February 2013, when the GTLA asked again: “Please confirm whether we need to change our current doors.”

When asked why he took so long to reply to an urgent issue, Mr Dunkerton said: “I’m not an expert in fire doors and I wouldn’t be able to give them advice on whether their fire doors are compliant or not.

“I probably would have had to wait for information to come through from consultants.”

He added: “That’s possibly what the delay may have been.”

Various issues between contractors working on the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower and the residents have been well documented to the inquiry already.

The inquiry continues on Tuesday with more evidence from staff at KCTMO.