Council apologises unreservedly for failures including insufficient recordkeeping
Building control officers approved the completed refurbishment works at Grenfell Tower despite never receiving sufficient information to get a complete picture of what was being built, Kensington & Chelsea council has admitted.
The council issued an unreserved apology for the failings in its building control function, after it published evidence to the inquiry showing that it did not keep proper records of the project.
Construction work was allowed to begin without officials seeing plans, and they never issued a decision notice formally approving design drawings.
Despite all this, the council told the inquiry that its building control office issued a completion certificate on 7 July 2016. “It should not have done so,” it added.
Phase 1 of the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 found that the refurbishment, conducted in 2014, was not compliant with building regulations, and that the flammable cladding installed was a chief reason for the rapid spread of the fire.
The job of building control is to ensure that development plans and the carrying out of work meet the stipulations of building regulations.
The council said that its building control function did not have a formal procedure for tracking the progress of applications for building control approval. While it said that there was no requirement for it to have such a procedure, “the council accepts that building control should have had one and that, had one been in place, it would have reduced the likelihood of aspects of the application or the building control approval process being overlooked”.
The council’s evidence said that construction work commenced on 2 June 2014, but that the full plans application form was only submitted to building control by Studio E on 4 August 2014 – without drawings attached.
The first drawings submitted in support of the application were only emailed to building control on 29 September 2014.
The council said: “Those responsible for the submission of the application failed to provide building control with sufficient information presented in a structured, easily accessible format and in a timely fashion”. It added that building control “bears some responsibility” for this failure.
The evidence then said building control “failed to issue a decision notice following receipt of the full plans application” and then “failed to ask for comprehensive details of the cladding system”.
The council said the recordkeeping of its building control service had been so poor that it was only able to piece together its account of the project from documents disclosed by other members of the team, including architect Studio E, contractor Rydon, facade specialist Harley and fire consultant Exova.
The council is one of the few parties involved in the refurbishment to have admitted to any significant failures on its part.
This afternoon the inquiry was due to consider a request by witnesses from firms involved in the refurbishment that they be assured that any evidence they give to the inquiry would not be used against them in a future prosecution.
The witnesses have threatened not to answer questions if they do not receive the undertaking, relying on the right not to self-incriminate.