Letter from Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government - 3 July 2020
As you are aware, the government took ownership of Grenfell Tower in 2019. We are responsible for keeping it safe and secure until a decision is made about its future. This is why regular checks and maintenance are still taking place, following stringent safety measures, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We want to tell you about essential safety works that will begin in the coming months. Contractors will install new ‘props’ – aluminium, weight-bearing supports that are commonly used in buildings – to supplement those that were installed shortly after the fire. We want to reassure you that the Tower is safe and doesn’t pose a risk. These works will ensure its stability until a decision is made about its future.
What work will happen and when?
Following professional advice from specialist structural engineers working on the Tower, heavy and damaged items need to be removed. This will include items such as sinks, white goods and fixtures and fittings, including suspended ceilings and pipes. The removal of items will both reduce the weight on the new props and will also create the space for them to be installed. The main works will begin in September and will be carried out in phases over the coming year.
• During July, you may notice early preparatory works, such as the delivery of equipment to the site and removal of some large items from communal areas to make space for the equipment.
• From September, the removal of damaged items within individual flats will begin. This will only happen once all former residents have been made aware of the work and have had the chance to ask questions. We understand that this work may be sensitive and are very happy to discuss this with bereaved families and former residents of the Tower to provide more details.
• Later in the autumn, work will commence on removing asbestos from inside the Tower. Asbestos was commonly used in buildings for insulation, flooring and roofing before the year 2000. Work on site since the fire has followed strict safety precautions to provide maximum safety. The removal of asbestos is a common procedure undertaken by specialist contractors. In addition to helping to reduce weight on the building, it will ensure the continued safety of local residents as well as those working in the building. We understand that there will be questions and concerns and will provide more details, including on the precautions that will be taken by our specialists to ensure there is no contamination, before asbestos removal begins.
The Grenfell site management team is available for individual conversations with all former households from the Tower, or bereaved family members, to provide details about how these works will affect individual flats (contact details are overleaf). We have also made local health and support services aware that these works will be taking place and they can support you to get in touch with us if you have any questions.
What has already been done?
In the immediate months after the fire, the site management team worked with a specialist contractor and the police to recover and return personal items that were deemed to be retrievable, re-usable or purposeful for former residents. Props were installed within the Tower to support its structure and a sophisticated monitoring system was installed to assess its stability. The next stage of safety works in the Tower is the installation of additional propping to ensure its continued stability.
To make sure the works do not interfere with justice, we have been in contact with the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, the police and the coroner to ask them about their needs of the Tower. They have all advised that they have the evidence they need from it and that they are content for the safety works to go ahead. We have also held conversations with local groups about these upcoming works, to hear their questions and so that we can communicate as effectively as possibly about them.
How will the work be undertaken?
We understand that local residents will have concerns about noise and other disruption. We are speaking to individuals and local organisations, such as residents’ associations and schools, to help us undertake these works in a way that has minimal impact for those that live, work or study close to the site.
We are also working with our contractors to understand how disruption to local residents, such as noise and vehicle access, can be minimised, for example, by restricting works to certain days. Noise and air quality monitoring will ensure the works are considerate of the Tower’s neighbours and we will provide further details about that shortly. We are instructing our contractors to work responsibly and we will oversee them to ensure that happens. Our existing agreement with the on-site contractor will be expiring soon, so we will be reviewing potential companies to carry out some of the later works. We will provide more information about that process soon, including how you can be involved if you would like to be.
Steps are also being taken to make sure this essential work is carried out safely in the current climate of COVID-19, to reduce those working on site from coming into contact with each other and to ensure they work with the appropriate safety and personal protective equipment at all times.
Please get in touch with the site management team if you have any questions or concerns relating to possible disturbance resulting from the works or any aspect of our approach. The safety and wellbeing of local residents remains our priority and we will carry out the work as carefully as possible.
What is the future of the Tower?
These safety works are not about bringing the Tower down. They involve careful removal of loose materials and some non-structural elements within the Tower and the installation of further props to ensure its continued stability until a decision is taken about its future. The materials would need to be removed whatever the future of the Tower. The decision will be based on advice from independent experts and will only happen following consultation with bereaved families, survivors and local residents. You will also be involved at every step of the journey, led by the Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission, towards agreeing a fitting memorial.
How to get in touch or find more information
This is the first of several regular updates that we will provide by email, online and by post about these works as they progress. We will continue to work closely with local groups and organisations to ensure they have the information they need.
We understand that the works might cause distress or discomfort and we are available for individual conversations with you or your family and to answer any questions you might have.
• For the site management team: Email GrenfellTowerSite@communities.gov.uk / phone 0303 444 0011
• Join our online Q&A event on Monday 27 July, 6pm–7pm (please email us for joining details and to send us your questions). Another event will take place in September and details on that will follow nearer the time.
• Telephone ‘drop-ins’ are taking place on Wednesdays, 10am–12noon: Phone 0303 444 9086
See the digital signs around the site, which will contain the latest information about the works. This update and letters about these safety works are available online at: www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/grenfell-community-updates. This update will also shortly be available in different languages.
For the independent Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission:
Click here for a copy of the letter.