Grenfell landlords rejected design adviser despite lacking ‘specialist skills’ themselves, inquiry hears

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The Grenfell Tower landlords rejected professional help to check its planned refurbishment met building regulations despite themselves lacking “specialist skills of the kind and scope”, the inquiry into the fire has heard.

The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation rejected the services of a client design adviser in 2014, which would have seen an experienced architect scrutinise drawings and designs for the revamp.

The proposal was made by costing consultants Artelia and would have cost about £30,000.

But the TMO decided to perform the role in-house, meaning it would apparently need to “sign off all design”, according to meeting minutes.

Asked why his colleagues David Gibson and Claire Williams rejected the services, Peter Maddison, former director of assets and regeneration at the TMO, told the inquiry on Thursday: “I think in short that it wasn’t necessary. I didn’t interrogate him in detail.

“At no point did anybody raise any specific issues regarding the design of the cladding or any risks attached to that.

“Had any specialist advice been recommended I would have fully supported that, but none was ever given.

“Having seen the scope now of the CDA role – certainly we wouldn’t have the skills in-house to provide that full role.

“In terms of specifics around compliance of materials and design of that nature, no.”

Mr Maddison rejected that the TMO was responsible for “signing off” design, saying it was a “very broad statement” and adding: “Rydon have the responsibility under the design and build contract for signing off design.”

Inquiry lawyer Richard Millett QC asked: “In light of the fact nobody within the TMO had specialist skills of the kind and scope that were being offered under the CDA proposal and given Artelia … had no design responsibility.

“Is it right that actually you were left with nobody protecting your interests on the client side from any errors made by Rydon in their design role?”

Mr Maddison said: “We were relying on Artelia as Employer’s Agent to ensure that Rydon complied with the terms of their contract. That includes the specialist design team.

“I would expect if Artelia had offered advice they thought was essential and that we weren’t taking it – I would have expected them to have escalated that to me.”

Philip Booth, a project manager at Artelia, has said in his witness statement he thought Ms Williams “was reluctant for the TMO to incur the additional costs”.

He has told the inquiry: “They genuinely believed they could do the role themselves and were best placed to do it.

“The TMO had a massive team, some of them were architects, some were fire engineers so I wasn’t concerned when they said ‘we’ll take it on ourselves’.”

Ms Williams told the inquiry last week the decision not to hire was “not at all” because of cost, suggesting that £30,000 was “comparatively minor compared to some of the fees we were paying.”

The inquiry continues.