Five years after Grenfell, 600,000 people in UK remain at risk from dangerous cladding

Only 6 per cent of homes have been stripped of combustible cladding since 2017 disaster

Tributes have been paid to the 72 people who died at Grenfell Tower in west London on the fifth anniversary of the disaster. Getty.
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More than half a million people in Britain are still at risk from unsafe cladding at their homes five years after the Grenfell Tower fire.

Seventy-two men, women and children died when a blaze broke out at an apartment block in West London. It was the worst residential fire since the Second World War.

The disaster led to a further crisis when it emerged that thousands of homes across the country had combustible cladding, requiring many homeowners to foot the bill to have it removed.

Since then, owners of up to 1.5 million flats in blocks taller than 11 metres have found it difficult to sell their homes owing to fire-safety issues.

The government estimates there are about 640,000 people living in 345,000 properties across Britain where there is a significant fire risk.

Despite the government pledging to raise £9 billion ($11bn) to help affected home owners, only 6 per cent of homes have had the dangerous cladding removed, figures show.

“Five years on, we have yet to see any justice for those who lost their lives at Grenfell,” said the UK Cladding Action Group, which campaigns on behalf of affected flat owners.

“Five years on, the government has failed in its repeated promises to keep hundreds of thousands of citizens safe.”

This month, the UK government announced that the use of the type of cladding on Grenfell Tower, a material known as MCM PE, was banned in new buildings.

It prohibited metal composite material panels with an unmodified polyethylene core on all new buildings of any height in England. A ban on MCM PE previously applied only to buildings higher than 11 metres.

On the eve of the disaster's anniversary, some former residents said little had changed with fire safety in England.

Last month, the government said it planned to keep its “stay put” policy in place, which urges residents of most buildings to wait for rescue services in the event of a fire rather than leaving their homes.

Tiago Alves, 25, escaped from Grenfell in the early stages of the blaze and said many survivors "managed to get out early because they ignored ‘stay put’ advice".

“And so I’m gobsmacked at the fact that we’re still having this conversation five years on," he said.

On Tuesday, a multi-faith memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey for those who died in the fire. The names of all 72 victims were read out during a moment of silence.

Another service was held at the foot of Grenfell Tower, alongside former residents and the families of victims.

Updated: June 15, 2022, 8:06 AM
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