Suffolk firm among private companies refusing to accept responsibilty for Grenfell Tower fire, inquiiry hears

Grenfell Tower: Photo credit : Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Grenfell Tower: Photo credit : Steve Parsons/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Private firms which refurbished Grenfell Tower, including a company from Suffolk, have refused to admit any responsibility for the catastrophic fire which killed 72 people, an inquiry has heard.

The second phase of the investigation into the disaster opened on Monday, and the inquiry's chief lawyer accused corporate companies of pointing the finger at each other without accepting any blame.

Built in 1974, the tower was extensively refurbished between 2012 and 2016, most significantly when flammable aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding was wrapped over its concrete exterior.

The first part of the inquiry found this was the "principal" reason for the rapid spread of flames.

Counsel to the inquiry Richard Millett QC said in his opening remarks that, with the exception of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, there was no trace of any acceptance of responsibility from anyone else for what happened.

"Not from the architects, not from the contract managers, main contractors."

The second stage of the inquiry will consider how the high-rise block came to be covered in flammable cladding.

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Rydon, the main contractor, said the providers of the cladding and insulation, Arconic and Hadleigh-based Celotex, had misled buyers into believing their products were safe for use on high-rises despite appearing to know of the dangers.

An internal report from an Arconic director in 2011 noted the material Reynobond PE was "dangerous on facades and everything should be transferred to (FR) fire resistant as a matter of urgency", according to counsel for Rydon Marcus Taverner QC.

The email, sent by official Claude Wehrle, added: "This opinion is technical and anti-commercial it seems."

Mr Taverner also read out an internal Celotex email from November 2013 which showed officials knew using the insulation CelotexRS500 alongside aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding could be dangerous.

The email said: "We cannot seem to find or design a suitable barrier in which we have enough confidence that it can be used behind a standard ACM panel which we know will melt and allow fire into the cavity.. Or do we take the view that our product realistically shouldn't be used behind most cladding panels because in the event of a fire it would burn?"

The company marketed its insulation as being suitable for buildings taller than 18 metres after it decided to get into the "lucrative" high-rise market in 2013, Mr Taverner said.

The inquiry will hear from Exova, which gave fire safety advice, and Celotex, on Tuesday.

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