Dezeen Magazine

Grenfell Tower Inquiry suspended over coronavirus

Over 900 Grenfell fire victims reach civil settlement

More than 900 survivors, bereaved family members and local residents affected by the Grenfell Tower fire have agreed a settlement in a civil claim over the disaster.

Companies and public bodies involved in a refurbishment of the 1970s London social housing block, which was destroyed in a huge blaze in June 2017 that killed 72 people, have reached an agreement with the claimants after nearly two years of legal discussions.

The settlement comprises an undisclosed sum of compensation set to be divided between the claimants based on their individual circumstances.

"Fight for justice continues"

One defendant also told Dezeen that it has "agreed to contribute to a restorative justice project to benefit the community affected by the fire".

Among the organisations involved in the case is Studio E Architects, the architecture firm appointed to the refurbishment contract, which went into liquidation in 2020.

The claimants were represented by a group of 14 law firms.

"A group of over 900 bereaved family members, survivors and local residents (BSRs) whose lives have been devastated by the Grenfell Tower fire have agreed a settlement of their civil claims arising from the fire," the law firms told Dezeen.

The civil claim is separate to the public inquiry into the fire, which finished taking evidence in November 2022 and is expected to issue its final report later this year.

It is also separate to an ongoing police investigation, with the Crown Prosecution Service expected to decide whether to pursue criminal charges after the inquiry report is published.

"In those respects, the BSRs' fight for justice continues," the law firms added. "Finally, it should be recognised that no amount of damages could ever be sufficient to properly compensate those affected by the fire."

The case was brought against 22 parties including Studio E, cladding manufacturer Arconic and fire consultancy Exova.

These three companies were named at the inquiry by survivors' lawyer Stephanie Barwise in a "rogues gallery" of those most responsible for flammable polyethylene-cored aluminium cladding being fitted to the tower during the refurbishment – identified by the inquiry as the primary cause of rapid fire spread up the building.

Studio E was stiffly criticised by inquiry expert witness Paul Hyett for its role in the project, though in its closing submissions Studio E questioned his experience and expertise.

"Merry-go-round of buck-passing"

"Arconic confirms that it is a party to the full and final settlement in connection with a large majority of the claims relating to the Grenfell Tower fire in the High Court brought by survivors and estates of decedents," an Arconic spokesperson told Dezeen.

"Arconic also agreed to contribute to a restorative justice project to benefit the community affected by the fire. Arconic continues to express its deepest sympathy to the Grenfell residents and their families, and appreciates the importance of this milestone for providing a resolution that lessens the delay and stress to claimants that would result from protracted legal proceedings."

The inquiry heard evidence that US conglomerate Arconic conducted testing that showed its product to be highly combustible as early as 2004, with a senior staff member later emailing colleagues about "how dangerous 'PE' [polyethylene] can be when it comes to architecture".

Among the other defendants was contractor Rydon, which is currently among a small number of house builders refusing to sign up pay to replace unsafe cladding on their schemes.

Central government departments the Home Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities are also involved, as well as building owner Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and its management company the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO).

In January, UK housing secretary Michael Gove became the first government minister to admit that "faulty and ambiguous" building regulations had been a factor in the Grenfell fire in an interview with The Sunday Times.

Most of the organisations directly involved in the Grenfell refurbishment project have not accepted responsibility for the fire, with inquiry lead counsel Richard Millett pointing to a "merry-go-round of buck-passing" intended to protect companies' own interests.

The settlement does not include all victims of the fire, with a separate, smaller group represented by two other law firms.

Dezeen has contacted the organisations named in this article for comment.

"We recognise that a monetary settlement won't mitigate for the loss and trauma, but both the settlement and the restorative justice process is a welcome step forward," a KCTMO spokesperson said.

The photography is by Carcharoth.