‘Remove deadly cladding from our borough,’ say Grenfell survivors

This piece was initially published at Al Araby.

A housing action group is fighting to remove flammable cladding used on the Grenfell Tower from similar tower blocks in north-west London.

A spokesperson for the Barnet Housing Action Group (BHAG) told The New Arab that the same cladding that allegedly caused fire to spread rapidly at Grenfell Tower can also be found on buildings in Barnet.

The main contractor behind the Grenfell refurbishment, Rydon, working with East Sussex company Harley Facades Ltd, fitted the same cladding to a number of buildings in Barnet between 2013 and 2015.

“Only in the case of Barnet, do we think it is the case of the dangerous plastic cladding,” said Chris Cook, a BBC Newsnight editor.

Cook reported on Twitter of three cases where similar plastic-core cladding had been used – all in Barnet.

In response, the leader of Barnet Council has said the council would invest in upgrading its fire safety procedures.

“All Barnet-owned blocks have up-to-date Fire Risk Assessments, and comply with fire safety legislation,” said Richard Cornelius.

“The unprecedented horror of the Grenfell Tower fire has forced everyone to rethink their approach to fire safety in high-rise accommodation.”

BHAG said the local Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, Theresa Villiers – also a member of the aristocratic Villiers family – has a conflict of interest in the issue as she is also a landlord.

In 2016, Villiers was among the 72 landlord MPs who voted down a Labour amendment to the government’s housing and planning bill “designed to ensure that all rented accommodation was safe for people to live in“.

The reports of the cladding being used in Barnet have reached the council and the Barnet Council Housing Committee has added ‘Grenfell Tower Fire Update‘ to its agenda for its Monday 26 June meeting.

The action group will also attend that meeting to protest and raise awareness because “not a lot of people go to council meetings”, the spokesperson told The New Arab.

A couple that survived the Grenfell Tower fire will speak at the protest. They lived on the 20th floor, the same floor as 24-year-old artist Khadija Saye, who died in the fire.

The couple had been moved out of accommodation in Barnet borough into the Grenfell Tower, for reasons which remain unclear.

The action group said that it will make sure to raise the issue and denounce “the practices of Barnet moving poor people out” of the borough.