Legal actions relating to the Grenfell Tower fire mean it will be “some years” before work can begin on dismantling the shell of the building and that demolishing it will take “an estimated two years” after that, according to the deputy leader of Kensington & Chelsea Council (RBKC).
Addressing the committee that scrutinises the council’s Grenfell Recovery programme, Kim Taylor-Smith revealed that “I have been told that [the tower] is likely to remain standing for some years until legal actions have been completed.”
There have been reported recent suggestions that the tower could begin to be torn down by the end this year.
Taylor-Smith provided the new information when presenting a progress report on meeting a list of commitments to tenants of housing blocks adjacent to the tower, covering refurbishment of properties, repairs, improved services with a “particular emphasis” on fire safety and temporary accommodation for those who feel unable to return to homes the fire had forced them to vacate. The fire on 14 June 2017 took the lives of 72 people.
He said that the “long process” involved before the tower can be brought down needed to be incorporated in the council’s plans for the whole of the West Lancaster estate, which the tower stands at one end of, and considered within its wider housing policy.
Taylor-Smith pledged that an impending “improvement programme” to open up areas around the tower that have been closed off was “part of the journey of restoring the estate and making it the best place we possibly can for people to live,” and expressed his hope that the return of the award-winning Kensington Aldridge Academy to its original site next to the tower would also help with the recovery.
One third of homes in five housing blocks the report specifically addressed are currently empty and Taylor-Smith said that “encouraging residents to return”, in line with the wishes expressed by many of them, was another important element that needed to be addressed. He emphasised that the report was “not about forcing people home” though he acknowledged that it set out the council’s need to “support residents who are not in their homes make longer term decisions about where they want to live” (paragraph 3.2).
The meeting heard that of 204 Grenfell Tower or neighbouring Grenfell Walk households needing rehousing, 97 are now in permanents homes, 46 are in temporary homes and 61 are in emergency accommodation. A suggestion from a member of the public that targets had been set for returning households to their currently empty homes was firmly refuted.