By Gerard Tubb, Sky News Correspondent and Nick Stylianou, Sky News Reporter – Exclusive
Residents of Grenfell Tower were promised that fire-resistant cladding would be fitted to their building in 2012, before plans were changed and a cheaper, flammable covering was fitted.
Decorative cladding called Reynobond PE was fitted to the outside of the west London tower block during renovations last year.
Made of flammable plastic sandwiched between aluminium sheets, it is being blamed for spreading the fire from one floor to another in the 24-storey block.
It will be a major focus of the investigations into why so many were killed in the devastating blaze last week – with at least 79 people confirmed dead or missing, presumed dead.
Documents submitted to Kensington and Chelsea Council’s planning department show residents were consulted in 2012 over the renovations and were asked what cladding they wanted.
They show they chose a fire-resistant product called VMZ Composite which was said to have “many benefits”.
A newsletter handed to tenants and submitted with the planning application stated: “Various cladding options have been shown to residents with the composite cladding system being favoured by the majority.”
The document clearly stated the cladding had “fire retardancy”.
Two years later, a cheaper scheme was agreed and new proposals were approved by council planners.
Instead of the fire-resistant panels chosen by residents, cheaper plastic-filled cladding was fitted.
Last weekend, the Government claimed Reynobond PE should not have been used – with Chancellor Philip Hammond and trade minister Greg Hands both saying it was banned.
However, a panel of fire safety experts speaking at this week’s FIREX exhibition in London said it is impossible to say whether the cladding is banned or not.
Fire risk management consultant Stephen Mackenzie said the Government should have reviewed building regulations years ago.
“You can do secondary desktop studies to say you’ve done a check and balance and are comfortable with (flammable) material,” he explained.
“It’s down to the individual designer’s specifier and or specialist installer – there is no straight answer.”
Jim Glockling, technical director at the Fire Protection Association, criticised the design process that allows flammable cladding to be used.
“I have heard expressions of concern about some of these assessments, for some time, that they may not be as rigorous as they ought to be,” he said.