Five years after Grenfell, 24 Waltham Forest towers still at risk from fires

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower disaster
By Local Democracy Reporter Joe Talora

Northwood Tower (credit: Penny Dampier)
Northwood Tower (credit: Penny Dampier)

Exactly five years on from the Grenfell Tower disaster, 24 tower blocks in Waltham Forest still have serious fire safety issues.

Today is the fifth anniversary of the tragic fire, which killed at least 72 people after combustible cladding caused the flames to spread far more rapidly than expected.

Following Grenfell, extra safety measures – including “Waking Watches” – were installed in a number of buildings with fire safety defects until they could be fixed.

However, the LFB’s latest figures reveal there are still 1,100 buildings in London where issues remain, including 24 in Waltham Forest.

Speaking ahead of the anniversary, Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “heartbroken and angry” at “the lack of action taken over the last five years”.

He added that the families of Grenfell victims want those responsible held to account and for lessons to be learned.

Mr Khan said: “Neither of those things have happened and I think it’s really important for the Government to realise that, but for the grace of God, there could be another fire — maybe in a tower block, maybe in a smaller building — where fire spreads and people lose their lives. On that occasion, the Government and the council can’t say they weren’t warned.”

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Other than dangerous cladding, safety issues can include combustible balconies, inadequate fire doors or missing fire breaks. 

The affected buildings require measures such as continual waking watch patrols or a common alarm system to alert all residents to any fire, with leaseholders often having to cover the cost.

The Mayor has called on the Government to accept all the recommendations made by the public inquiry into Grenfell, as well as to “accelerate progress” on approving grants for cladding remediation and other building safety support.

To date, just 83 grants have been paid out in London from the Government’s £30 million waking watch relief fund, intended to cover the cost of replacing the expensive patrols.

Anne Clarke, Labour’s London Assembly spokesperson for fire and emergency planning, said: “We must never forget what brought us this point, for all the talk of building safety scandals and a cladding crisis, we remember the 72 people who died at the Grenfell Tower fire and all those who continue to be affected.

“Grieving Grenfell families have been fighting to prevent another tragedy for five years, but five years on Londoners are still living in thousands of unsafe buildings. Government inaction is distressing and dangerous.”

The Government said: “So far 45 of our biggest housebuilders have signed our developer pledge and will contribute £5 billion to fix their unsafe buildings. We expect them to work swiftly so people feel safe in their homes.”

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