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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 19 August 2018

British government to take over responsibility for Grenfell site

Local residents had been horrified by reports that Kensington and Chelsea council would look after it

Messages of condolence for the 72 victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, near to the shell of the London tower block. Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP
Messages of condolence for the 72 victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, near to the shell of the London tower block. Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP

The British government has stepped in amid a growing row, to confirm it will take over responsibility for the site of Grenfell Tower, the high-rise London tower block where a fire in June 2017 caused the deaths of 72 people.

Earlier this week The Guardian revealed that – to the horror of survivors and families of the dead – the Metropolitan Police were planning on releasing the area around the tower, which had been a crime scene, back to the control of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council.

Many residents blame the council for poor management of the block before the disaster and for the chaotic arrangements that ensued after the fire, and said they were horrified to learn that RBKC would continue to have a role.

The work of the police is coming to an end at the site, and so it will cease to be a crime scene soon – perhaps even within days.

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The newspaper reported earlier this week that locals had assumed that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) would create an independent organisation to plan for Grenfell’s future.

It is believed by many that the tower – covered in scaffolding and shrouded in white material – will be demolished and the site will become a memorial to the victims of the fire, the worst in a public housing block since the Second World War.

Natasha Elcock, a survivor from Grenfell Tower and member of Grenfell United told The Guardian that: “It’s a significant moment for survivors and bereaved families to hear that police investigations at the tower are about to be complete.

“We are relieved that the government has listened to us and stepped in to make sure that RBKC will not be managing the site and will have no involvement in any decisions about the site.

“It’s hard to put into words how personal what happens to the site is to all of us who used to live in the tower, lost loved ones in the fire and also for the wider community.

“The people we lost that night will be forever in our hearts and it will be survivors, bereaved families and the community that will make decisions together about what happens to the site now and how we remember there the loved ones we lost.”

MHCLG confirmed in a statement that “the government has recommitted today to putting the Grenfell Tower bereaved, survivors and community at the heart of deciding what happens to the future of the site.

“As part of this, the government has announced it will take responsibility for the Grenfell Tower site. It will make operational decisions, such as on the site’s safety, security and access, until the future of the site has been determined by the community. A formal agreement will be finalised in the autumn.

“The Metropolitan Police have said they are preparing to release the site as a crime scene. Ahead of this, the government is announcing the next step on the journey to a fitting memorial.”

Before a new body is created, the tower will be run by an independent team that has been working on the ground since the disaster. “This ensures the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea will continue to take no role in making decisions regarding the site,” the MHCLG statement said.

“The land will be transferred to a body represented by the bereaved and survivors once an appropriate body has been established and the site has been made ready and available for future use.”

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