A petition to ban combustible cladding after it was found to have accelerated the Grenfell Tower fire has been started by architect and TV presenter George Clarke.
Clarke, who’s appeared on Channel 4’s The Home Show, Restoration Man and George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, launched the petition today (June 7) and hopes to have the 100,000 signatures necessary to spark a parliamentary debate by the date of the Grenfell anniversary.
Appearing on the Jamie East show, Clarke, who lives near the tower, recalled the night of the disaster.
“It was horrific, that’s the only word you can use,” he says.
“I heard the beeping of a smoke alarm. I thought it was my house at first. I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs and thought, ‘it’s not mine’.
“I stepped out the back door, looked up and thought, ‘oh my god’.”
Cladding is removed from a building after the Grenfell fire
Clarke remembers being taken aback by what he perceived to be nonchalance when he called the fire brigade.
“I dialled 999 and says, ‘there’s a fire in Grenfell Tower’,” he continues.
“The phrase back was , ‘oh yeah, we’ve had a few calls about that already’ as if it was just a minor thing. That was nearly word-for-word.
“I says, ‘I don’t know what anyone’s told you but you need to send as many engines and as many firefighters as you can’.”
In December last year, Dame Judith Hackitt released her interim report from her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, which was commissioned by the government in the wake of Grenfell, and Clarke says he was disappointed by her findings.
“I was really upset by it. We’d been campaigning for the banning of combustible materials and she says that wasn’t the root cause of the problem,” he says.
“Her point was that there was systematic problems. But the cladding on that building, and the fact the fire spread so quickly, caused the death of those people.
“The fundamental problem is fire spread.
“Even though she thinks it doesn’t get to the root cause of the problem, banning combustible materials would have helped.”
The charred cladding after the blaze
Clarke’s petition, which at the time of writing had almost 6,000 signatures, calls for the government to ban the use of combustible materials on tower blocks, high-rise buildings (this generally includes all buildings over 7-10 storeys) and buildings such as hospitals, schools and shopping malls where there could be a high risk to public safety.
“There’s a horrible phrase in our industry - ‘value engineering’,” Clarke adds.
“I’m assuming someone might have costed it for a better-performing cladding system and it was ‘value engineered’ to do it cheaper - that’s where the systematic failings come in.
“I assumed it would be fireproof cladding and fireproof insulation, and the moment I found out it wasn’t was when I was standing in my garden.
“The cladding system was peeling off like a banana and flapping around in the sky.
“If we can get 100,000 signatures by the anniversary, I can walk up to Downing Street and say the public have demanded change.
“There are 297 residential towers in the UK now [the government’s direction to local housign authorities states 294 buildings in the UK with similar cladding failed some safety tests] that have the same cladding system as Grenfell and it hasn’t been removed yet .
“This petition will save lives. On every level it’s outrageous, but nobody should have lost their life that night."
To sign the petition click here.