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Delaying Grenfell Tower report leaves survivors in limbo, says bishop

20 May 2019


Grenfell Tower, in west London

Grenfell Tower, in west London

THE delay to the publication of the first report of the Grenfell Tower inquiry has left survivors, families, and residents of North Kensington in a limbo of grief, fear, and pain, the Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, has said.

The first phase of a public inquiry is investigating what happened on the night of 14 June 2017, when the Grenfell Tower fire led to the deaths of 72 people. Phase-one hearings concluded last December, and a report from Sir Martin Moore-Bick, who chairs the inquiry, was due to be published in the spring, in time for the second anniversary, next month.

But a letter to survivors and bereaved families this week from Caroline Featherstone, a solicitor for the inquiry, states that publication has been delayed until October, because writing it proved to be a “far more complex and time-consuming task” than expected.

Dr Tomlin said on Monday: “Many people in North Kensington are living in a kind of limbo, not able to move backwards or forwards with their lives. . . Many are still dealing with grief, yet grief is complicated when you feel that your brother, mother, uncle, or sister died needlessly; that responsibility for their deaths has not been recognised; and that not much has changed in two years.

“People still live with anxieties over reports of toxic air and soil in the local neighbourhood since the fire, and there is a good deal of evidence of ongoing mental-health issues, with depression, fear, and the difficulty of getting back to normal life.”

He continued: “However understandable the delay in the public inquiry due to the complexity and amount of evidence to sift, the effect on the bereaved and the survivors is significant. It is hard to move on with your life while so much remains unresolved, the causes of the fire remain unclear, and those responsible for what happened have not been identified.”

Ms Featherstone writes of the “significant volume of evidence to be reviewed and detailed work to be done” as a reason for the delay. The inquiry has, so far, received about 476,000 non-duplicate documents in total. There are more than 36,100 documents relating to the second phase, which is to continue throughout the year. “Writing the phase-one report has proved to be a far more complex and time-consuming task than the Inquiry had originally anticipated. The report will set out in detail what happened during the night of 14 June 2017.

“That involves an almost minute-by-minute description of how the fire started, how it spread, and what was happening on each floor of the Tower. It also involves a detailed description and analysis of what was happening in the incident control room and on the ground, as well as the response of the emergency services and relevant organisations.”

The delay has sparked anger from the residents group Grenfell United. Natasha Elcock, who chairs the group, said: “That we are only finding this out now, when we were expecting the report to be published ahead of the two-year anniversary, shows how they continue to disregard survivors and bereaved through this process. . .

“It appears, despite everything survivors and bereaved said in the weeks after the fire, the inquiry has woefully underestimated the catastrophic complexity and scale of the failures that led to Grenfell. . .

“We want the inquiry and the criminal investigation to be thorough and get to the truth, but there must be no more delays. We are living in limbo, increasingly frustrated, and we need to know that there will be some resolution soon.”

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