Grenfell chief thought design adviser ‘would not bring anything to project’

Tower block fire in London
Tower block fire in London - (Copyright PA Archive)
17:52pm, Thu 15 Oct 2020
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A manager on the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower decided against employing a specialist design adviser because she thought it “wouldn’t bring anything to the table”, an inquiry has heard.

Last week, the inquiry heard that Kensington and Chelsea tenant management organisation (TMO) rejected the services of a client design adviser proposed by its consultants Artelia and decided to take on the responsibility itself.

Claire Williams, project manager for the TMO – which ran the council’s housing on it’s behalf – told Thursday’s hearing that the job appeared to be an “untenable role” due to the complex design of the cladding for the 24-storey block.

INQUIRY Grenfell - (Copyright PA Graphics)

She said: “I would have worries about a client design adviser (CDA) being another tier that would not be best placed to comment on cladding.”

Ms Williams said the nature of the “specialist” cladding meant that a CDA role would be “difficult shoes to fill”.

She explained: “The specialist design was such that we felt that the specialists who did the design they did that day in day out, a design adviser would be unlikely to find somebody who had specialisation in cladding”.

She described the role as one that would have “muddied the waters” of communication and “that perhaps wouldn’t bring anything to the table”.

Inquiry lawyer Richard Millett QC also produced a document which showed Artelia quoting the cost of a CDA at £30,922.50.

Ms Williams said the decision not to hire was “not at all” as a result of the costs involved.

She said:  “The fees on this project were substantial” and suggested that £30,000 was “comparatively minor compared to some of the fees we were paying.”

Previously, Philip Booth of Artelia said he thought Ms Williams “was reluctant for the TMO to incur the additional costs of the CDA”, but thought the body “genuinely believed they could do the role themselves.”

He told the inquiry last week: “I certainly made her aware of our proposal and felt it was something if she didn’t take up then she needed to understand what she was taking on as a responsibility.

“The TMO had a massive team, some of them were architects, some were fire engineers so I wasn’t concerned when they said ‘we’ll take it on ourselves’.

The inquiry will continue next Monday.

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