Consultant spent 33 minutes checking Grenfell fire safety document

Senior consultant admits he ‘possibly rushed’ review of fire safety strategy for Grenfell Tower refit after spending just 33 minutes checking the document

  • Senior fire consultant Tony Pearson said he ‘possibly rushed’ fire safety review
  • Claimed he was unaware of plans to overclad the tower which set on fire in 2017 
  • Took just 33 minutes to look over fire strategy document for the 24-storey block 

A senior fire consultant admitted he ‘possibly rushed’ a peer-review of the fire safety strategy for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment – spending just 33 minutes looking over the document. 

At an inquiry into the blaze which killed 72 people, Tony Pearson, who worked for the firm Exova, said ‘with hindsight’ more information about the tower’s re-fit should have been available to him.

He said he was unaware of plans to overclad the concrete exterior of the tower, which set on fire in June 2017, when he reviewed the second issue of the fire strategy for the 24-storey block on October 24, 2013.

The inquiry into the Grenfell Tower tragedy (pictured) resumed last week, its first sitting since the middle of March due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic

Dr Pearson, who has a degree in mechanical engineering and a PhD in fire behaviour, was sent the report compiled by his colleague, chief fire safety consultant Terry Ashton, at 3.40pm, the inquiry heard.

He sent it back with some revisions at 4.13pm, with inquiry lawyer Kate Grange QC asking if he thought he had ‘sufficient’ time to peer-review it.

Dr Pearson said: ‘Obviously half past three in the afternoon doesn’t give me a lot of time before end of play to review it.

‘There’s a certain amount of urgency there. I must have appreciated that urgency at the time. But I’ve got no specific recollection of my emotions at the time.’

Dr Pearson, who also works as an on-call firefighter, was further asked if he had the ‘adequate information’ to carry out his assessment at the time.

He told the inquiry that ‘with hindsight’ other information ‘probably should have been available’, including the minutes of design team meetings with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC).

The tragedy claimed 72 lives (pictured) due to a devastating fire on June 14 2017, but survivors from the tower block blaze

But he added: ‘At the time there was nothing I felt I needed that I didn’t have.’

Ms Grange said: ‘We know that a number of those design team meetings included references to overcladding.

‘Was that something ideally you would have known at this time?’

He replied: ‘Probably, yes.’

A third – and final – outline fire strategy was published around two weeks later, in November 2013, and was peer-reviewed by a more junior colleague, the inquiry heard.

Dr Pearson said the peer-review process of the second issue was ‘possibly rushed’, adding that for the third issue: ‘It probably wasn’t as considered as one might ideally want it to be.’

The inquiry heard last week that Mr Ashton produced three issues of the fire strategy report for the tower’s refurbishment between October 2012 and November 2013 without pursuing the architects, Studio E, to ask what materials they planned to use to encase the building.

The senior fire consultant Tony Pearson said he ‘possibly rushed’ fire safety review Claimed he was unaware of plans to overclad the tower which set on fire in 2017

Despite being aware of the architects’ intention to clad the building and being copied into correspondence outlining proposed cladding and insulation materials, none of Mr Ashton’s reports mentioned cladding or the dangers posed by certain types, the inquiry has heard.

Mr Ashton admitted he had ignored documents outlining the the materials because he was not the ‘primary recipient’ of the email. 

Mr Ashton also told the inquiry that he failed to read the architect’s progress report which he was sent on the same day his first fire safety report was published.

Exova says it was never consulted about the flammable materials chosen to cover Grenfell and claims it was effectively sidelined after Rydon became the main contractor in 2014.

The latest revelations come as the inquiry began once again last week after having to put the proceedings on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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