Frustration at a lack of change six years on from the Grenfell Tower fire is turning to anger within the community, a leading campaigner has said as locals prepare to mark the anniversary of the blaze.
Exactly 72 months ago – one month for each life lost – the west London tower block became a scene of devastation as plumes of smoke rose into the capital’s sky and pictures were beamed on news channels around the world.
On Wednesday evening the annual silent walk will take place in memory of those who died, with people encouraged to wear green to show they “stand united in the fight for justice”.
What should have been a “catalyst for societal change” on June 14, 2017 has instead been reacted to with “incompetence and indifference and inaction”, former tower resident Edward Daffarn said.
Mr Daffarn lived on the 16th floor and had long campaigned on safety issues at the tower, predicting the fire in a blog post seven months before it happened.
In an interview with the PA news agency, he said that six years later “the kind of frustration that we felt at the lack of change since Grenfell is beginning to really kind of manifest and ferment into kind of anger.”
He said: “Not only can I speak for myself individually, but I think I can speak on behalf of Grenfell United, of which I’m a committee member.
“In the days after the fire as I was standing underneath the wreck of Grenfell I was pretty convinced that Grenfell would become the catalyst for societal change, that things would not be the same as they were before Grenfell, as a result of Grenfell.”
He branded the lack of criminal justice in relation to the fire not only unsatisfactory but also “abusive”.
He said: “To date there hasn’t been a single arrest. Not a single clink of handcuffs for any of the perpetrators of the fire. And I know it’s a cliche but, you know, justice delayed is justice denied. And we can’t go on for much longer without people being held to account. And it feels very abusive, it feels very unsatisfactory.”
Mr Daffarn also pointed out that the final report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has been “been pushed back to next year” and said recommendations from the phase one report had still “not been enacted by this Government”.
He repeated criticism of the Government for not placing a legal obligation on landlords to prepare personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) for disabled residents to ensure they know how to exit safely in the event of a fire.
He said: “Disabled people are still living in high-rise buildings facing exactly the same danger as they were before the fire. And six years after Grenfell that is just totally unacceptable.”
Big companies that “were responsible or had a part to play in Grenfell” are continuing to make huge profits, he added, something he said is “very difficult to understand and for us to live with”.
He said Grenfell United is contacted “very often” by people who are experiencing the same problems and “being treated the same way that we were as social housing tenants now as before the fire and living in conditions are really not fit for human habitation”.
Mr Daffarn said: “We should not be in this situation six years after Grenfell. There shouldn’t be so many unresolved strands. There’s no denouement, there’s just a constant, never-ending saga and, just on a personal level, any attempt to get on with my life post-Grenfell is just not possible while all of these things are so unresolved.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “Our thoughts are with the bereaved families, survivors and residents as they remember those who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower tragedy.”
A debate will take place in the House of Commons in the coming weeks which is expected to include an update on the action Government is taking in the areas of social housing, building safety and wider reform.
On PEEPs, a Home Office spokesperson said the Government is “committed to delivering proposals that enhance the safety of residents whose ability to self-evacuate in an emergency may be compromised” and that it is currently analysing responses to a public consultation on emergency evacuation.