Fire brigade still stops dangerous buildings being built ‘on a daily basis’ five years after Grenfell

“I’m aware we’re still building buildings in an unsafe way in London, because we’re stopping them by the day.”

London’s fire service is stopping “unsafe” buildings being built in the capital “on a daily basis”, the city’s most senior firefighter has told City Hall.

The shock revelations came the day after the five-year anniversary of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, which saw 72 lives lost after the 24-storey tower block caught alight.

Andy Roe, the London Fire Brigade (LFB commissioner) told assembly members he was uncomfortable with how buildings are being constructed and maintained, and developers were failing to meet safety standards even prior to tougher regulations after the Grenfell fire.

LFB chief Andy Roe, left, with Prince William on Emergency Services Day. Photo: Getty

Speaking at the London Assembly’s fire committee this afternoon (Wednesday, June 15), he said: “Am I comfortable about how people build buildings in London and how they’ve maintained them?

“No, not at all but I think it’s my job to keep making that clarion call to developers that they need to get their house in order.

“It’s not just a failure of the regulation but a failure to retain or renovate that building to the old standard - let alone the new standard.”

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And shockingly Mr Roe, a former British Army officer, who became a firefighter in 2002, added: “I’m aware we’re still building buildings in an unsafe way in London, because we’re stopping them by the day.

“We get stuff across our desk every day, the building engineering team, that we simply can’t allow to progress. On a daily basis.

“The scale of it is too considerable.”

Five years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, there have still been no arrests (Pic: AFP via Getty Images)

In a statement at the start of the meeting to mark the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell fire, he talked of “the destruction of hopes and dreams of so many in that community… the loss of 72 Londoners”.

He said: “No resident of a tower block in modern London should have to suffer what they did.

“It points to failure on the part of every institution that should have kept them safe - including in part my own.

“The only way we can offer some redress, some sense of justice, is to do the right things, accept failings we have identified and the inquiry has identified, and address them.”

And Mr Roe said that during the blaze emergency services dealt with “firefighting conditions that I have not seen before or since - as one of the country’s most experienced firefighters”.

Asked by Susan Hall, leader of the City Hall Conservative group, if he had any advice for Londoners living in high rise blocks, Mr Roe said: “Yes is the short answer.

“Before you even get to that point, if you’re living in one of the 1,000 blocks that is simultaneous evacuation in London - either cladding or serious defects - number one, I hope you know you’re living in one of them because your building owner has a responsibility to tell you and have a plan for evacuation because you cannot apply stay put to those buildings.

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“If you think your building is clad and you’re not sure, ask your landlord. If you see things in your building, doors wedged open, building fabric you think might present a fire risk, ring us, tell us, go on our website. We will provide advice and come and have a look if necessary.

“For all those people living in high rise blocks around London, if you’re in a clad block, please be assured that if it’s one of the 1,000 we’re aware of, we know where you are and we have a plan for if we have to come to your building and that we know you will be evacuating that block and we will have to operate differently.

“For people in non clad blocks, it is a challenging concept, but the way buildings have been built in this country means staying put is the safest strategy in the first instance.

Stormzy at the Grenfell Tower memorial service. Credit: Lynn Rusk

“My caveat to that is we can no longer rely on the building regulations not to fail.

“Our people come prepared for that and we know whether it’s due to anxiety or that the incident has escalated, you  may want to leave the building.

“Officers are trained to deal with that and to initiate the evacuation.”

And he added: “If your building is on fire, close your windows.

“If you’re not in a clad block, stay in your building in the first instance unless you’re being told otherwise, or you can see that something is deteriorating.

“If you’re in a clad block you will need to leave as its simultaneous evacuation.”