A CROWBOROUGH-based family business has been drawn into the controversy over the Grenfell Tower disaster that resulted in at least 79 deaths when the building went up in flames last week.
Firefighters at the scene had reported flames ‘shooting up’ the side of the West London building as the fire rapidly spread, adding weight to claims that the cladding on the exterior of the building helped exacerbate the resulting inferno.
Theresa May has since ordered a full public inquiry into the devastating fire.
One of the businesses behind the installation of the cladding during recent renovation work was Harley Facades Limited, which is based in the Brooklands Park commercial estate near Crowborough Station.
Harley Facades confirmed it purchased the cladding from the Worcester-based manufacturer Omnis.
It has since been reported that Omnis had offered two types of panels for the task, Reynobond PE (polyethylene) and Reynobond FR (fire resistant). The type eventually used were the former which was £2 cheaper per square metre.
Harley Facades’ role in the refurbishment, which was completed last year, was valued at £2.6million. The company itself had been subcontracted by the neighbouring Forest Row firm Rydon Maintenance as part of a larger £8.6million deal to renovate the block.
A statement released by Harley Facade acknowledged its role in the refurbishment, but stated the type of panel selected for the installation was a ‘commonly used product in the refurbishment industry’.
In a further statement Managing Director, Ray Bailey, described the incident as ‘incredibly tragic’.
“Our thoughts are with the residents and their families who have suffered such a personal loss,” he added.
Mr Bailey stated the firm ‘fully support’, and will co-operate, with investigations into the fire but that it would ‘not be appropriate’ to comment or ‘for others to speculate’ on its cause, adding: “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.”
Mr Bailey was born and bred in Crowborough, he was a pupil at Beacon, and is said by those who know him to be ‘well liked’. His wife Belinda is company secretary.
Robert Bond the Chief Executive of Rydon in Forest Row spoke of his ‘shock’, stating his company ‘welcomes’ the public inquiry into the blaze and will help all ‘relevant authorities’ in the investigation.
He added: “Rydon Maintenance Limited completed a partial refurbishment of the building in the summer of 2016 for Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation [the landlord] on behalf of the Council, which met all required building regulations – as well as fire regulation and health & safety standards.”
It is understood that Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council preferred bidder for the refurbishment contract was a company named Leadbitter but later dropped the company when said the required works would cost £11.27million.
Residents had previously raised concerns about the absence of sprinklers in the building, only one inner staircase was available as an escape route and there had not been a fire drill for five years. In addition the alarms are said not have worked and the fire extinguishers were labelled ‘condemned’.
English law requires only buildings constructed since 2007 and which are taller than 30m to have sprinklers fitted, and the law was not applied retroactively. Grenfell Tower was built in 1974.