Grenfell re-clad ‘to stop it looking like poor cousin’ to nearby new-builds

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Grenfell Tower was re-clad to stop it from looking like the “poor cousin” to the new school and leisure centre being built next door, an inquiry has heard.

The block was also described as one of the “worst property assets” of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation and redevelopers wanted to create “synergy” between it and its more modern neighbours.

Detail of conversations about the relationship between Grenfell and the Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre project were heard as Mark Anderson gave evidence to the inquiry into the 2017 blaze.

As director of engineering for the TMO – who were responsible for running the council’s housing – Mr Anderson contributed to the work on Grenfell between 2011 and January 2013.

A note sent to officials at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) from Jane Trethewey – also at the council – said the TMO were “keen to investigate the opportunity to clad Grenfell Tower and replace its windows”.

The email went on: “This will have the advantage of addressing one of its worst property assets and prevent it looking like a poor cousin to the brand new facility being developed next door.”

The note added: “There may be an option to have a cladding design that links to the design of the Academy so that the visual appearance of the area is significantly improved.”

When pushed by inquiry lawyer Andrew Kinnier QC whether he had heard concerns about the flats looking like a “poor cousin”, he said he remembered it being expressed by staff at RBKC and at architects Studio E.

A major part of the redevelopment of the 24-storey block was the installation of aluminium composite material cladding panels with a thermoplastic-filled core.

The inquiry has already found that the system had a heat combustion akin to diesel and fuelled the inferno in June 2017, which claimed 72 lives.

Tuesday’s session also heard that developers were keen to create “synergy” between the KALC redevelopment and the Tower.

Studio E, the architects behind KALC, were recruited to do the work on Grenfell as well, despite never having taken on a project on a high-rise residential building before.

Mr Anderson said using the same team for the two lots of work was one thing under consideration to create the desired “synergy”.

He told lawyers: “There was certainly a genuine desire from RBKC’s perspective, one to improve Lancaster West estate and more particularly Grenfell Tower, but also to ensure there was synergy between what was done to Grenfell Tower and the KALC project.”

Reflecting on his memory of questions asked at the time, Mr Anderson went on: “Can we create synergy through appointing the same consulting team?

“Could we gain synergy through appointing the same contractor?

“Could we gain synergy through carrying out the projects in tandem and potentially, as you were alluding to earlier, could we get synergy through having a similar aesthetic finish to both the academy, leisure centre and Grenfell Tower?”

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