By Pippa Crerar, The Evening Standard, 27 June 2017
Ministers faced calls today for a moratorium on all new tower block construction in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, until their safety can be guaranteed.
The influential Housing and Finance Institute think tank said the future of existing high-rise blocks should also be reviewed to consider whether they should be demolished instead of repaired.
The HFI report, authored by former Government housing adviser Nathalie Elphicke, called for a dramatic rethink on the number of tall buildings that are shooting up across the capital.
Ms Elphicke, chief executive of the HFI, said: “Following the Grenfell tragedy, we must urgently review the future of high-rise tower blocks in our cities.
“Not only should we enact an immediate pause on the construction of new blocks that haven’t yet started, but we should actively consider whether we would be better off simply demolishing the existing buildings identified as being at risk instead of repairing them.” She claimed one million new homes could be built in London by 2022 without putting up new tower blocks. Instead, homes could be built at greater density and in low- and mid-rise developments, with a shift in focus beyond the centre of the capital.
At least 78 people are confirmed dead in a huge fire that ripped through a west London tower block, Grenfell Tower in north Kensington. The death toll could still rise.
Up to 600 people are believed to have been inside Grenfell Tower’s 120 flats when the blaze tore through the 24-storey building in the early hours of 14 June. Several residents are still unaccounted for and many families are homeless.
The tragedy is a timely reminder that large towers cannot be safely evacuated in case of an emergency.
Simon Jenkins of the London Evening Standard commented:
“Fires in towers are very infrequent, and the failings at Grenfell may result from an outdated design. […] But towers are claustrophobic. They are gated anti-communities. Nor are they an efficient use of urban space, since their lifts, escapes and servicing consume ever more of their volume the higher they go. Yes, the modern city needs denser living but it can find plenty of that nearer the ground. Grenfell should force a rethink, not just of safety but of planning.”
On 24 May 2017, the Brent Council Planning Committee approved plans for the construction of a massive building on the Minavil House site in central Alperton. This approval flies in the face of objections from many Alperton residents and local businesses.
Concerns have been expressed regarding the excessive height of the building, the land use, scale and design, quality of accommodation, impact on canal and transportation. At 26 storeys, the proposed tower would be the tallest building, by far, in the area.
During the public consultation, this design has been described as “monstrous”, “excessive” and “unsuitable” for the needs of local businesses at Wharfside and the wider neighbourhood. Going ahead with this tower, in violation of the original Alperton masterplan, would set an unwelcome precedent in Brent.