Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Atomic conflagration: Fire disaster for Kensington could be so much worse, borough admitted 16 years ago

Fire disaster for Kensington could be so much worse, borough admitted 16 years ago


In a meeting room at City Hall, the headquarters of London government, on 26 March 2001, a committee of London Assembly members heard explosive evidence on public safety from Guy Denington, a senior council official responsible for environmental safety at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC)


He told the committee members, chaired by the Green Party’s Darren Johnson that given the amount of people who resided and worked in the centre of London, alternative rail routes to the west London Line that passes through west Kensington should be found through areas of much lower density population for the transportation of radioactive waste and that rail freight should routed around (rather than through) London wherever possible, which would allow greater use from relevant rail lines for passenger services.


Some 200 transport of radioactive materials – mainly irradiated nuclear fuels rods from the nuclear plants at Sizewell in Suffolk, Bradwell in Essex,  and Dungeness in Kent-  then took place through London each year.


It was suggested by Mr Denington that a thorough examination of the issues of risks and routes associated with the transport of nuclear waste needed to be undertaken. 


He was backed by David Norton, who lead the London borough of Barnet’s pollution control team, including emergency planning, who advised that there was “a perceived need for the nuclear waste trains to pass through areas of lower population density as reasoned argument suggested that if smaller numbers of people were being potentially exposed to the risk of exposure to radioactive material the risk was smaller than if a large number of people were potentially being exposed.”


LB Barnet had, he said, sought alternative routes (through dialogue with relevant bodies arising from the Cricklewood Inquiry in the late 1990s) although information about routes had not been particularly forthcoming and conclusive answers about potential alternative routes had not been received.  He strongly argued that  routes used in the transportation of radioactive waste should avoid bridges and tunnels wherever possible, particularly as it was understood that one of the types of flasks used in the transportation, if upside down and heated for approximately 2 hours, could allow venting of radioactive material through its safety valve.  Such a scenario was not inconceivable and that, if this were to occur in a tunnel, the problems for the emergency services associated with trying to reach a flask in this situation and rectifying the situation would be very difficult


Mr Denington said that while  the possibility of a major rail accident involving flasks containing radioactive material was very small for that Borough – the Borough’s emergency planning officer had advised that there was a higher probability of chemical spillages (e.g. a gas spillage) which would potentially be much more difficult to contain than a very low-level spillage from a nuclear waste transport flask – “In terms of public perception, the RBKC emergency planning team had noted that, in the event of an incident involving the transport of radioactive waste, it may be that the public response would be the most serious aspect of the incident if information was not handled and presented carefully.”


Fast forward to June 2017, and it has been apparent for all to see how inadequately prepared the RBKC’s emergency incident plan has been to deal with the major catastrophic fire at the Grenfell Tower social housing project. How much it would have been had the fire been spewing out radioactive smoke across North Kensington, requiring the urgent mass evacuation of tens  of thousands of residents.


David Norton had stressed to the London Assembly committee looking into the hazards of  nuclear materials transports through London, that it was possible that the transported flasks represented a target for terrorist action.  Under questioning, Guy Denington  said the RBKC emergency planning officer had suggested that terrorists may well look for easier and more controllable methods of creating major disruption and damage, although he  acknowledged that this was essentially speculation  as there had been no formal study of this issue by RBKC. He supported a test run of the Government’s emergency plan called RADSAFE, for incidents involving radioactivity.


He also advised the committee that RBKC was in favour of a detailed risk analysis being undertaken before it could reasonably comment on the adequacy of the liability arrangements.  (


The final report of the committee’s investigations was published on 15 October 2001, ( barely a month after the world biggest ever terrorist attack, that destroyed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing 3000 civilians

The report made a number of considered recommendations, including that until alternative routes around London had been established, nuclear trains running through densely populated  urban areas of London should  be  limited to 45mph. This was not only ignored, but the maximum permitted speed was subsequently raised to 60mph.

Even the recommendation of limiting the speeds of nuclear trains to 45mph was ignored and the maximum speed subsequently raised to 60mph.

The Committee warned  an attack on a train carrying spent nuclear fuel through London could leave emergency services struggling to cope, and argued an urgent technical review was needed for the possibility of an attack - terrorist or vandal - on, or derailment of, the train, particularly as no exercise had been conducted involving all of the capital's emergency services. The report also said Railtrack and operators must improve trackside security "as a matter of urgency".

Other recommendations included improving trackside security including relating to access to spent fuel flasks, monitoring radiation levels of trains and trackside, a review by the Emergency Services and Boroughs, "for example the setting up.... of radiation hotlines, mechanisms for ensuring consistency of helpline advice and the training of helpline staff" and the Emergency Services to  review "whether current arrangements can be extended to provide an effective response to any incident more serious than those officially anticipated."  It also said, "Any decision on nuclear reactors in the South-East would have to be made in conjunction with by-pass routes, the possibility of on-site storage facilities and the capacity of the network to carry the required number of shipments safely. 

Committee chairman, Green group leader in the Greater London authority, Darren Johnson, told the Guardian the train transportation of spent fuel should be halted, and he urged an exercise to test the coordinated response from all services, stressing "We don't believe that adequate procedures are yet in place in terms of training exercises to deal with an emergency on one of those trains. Security measures do need to be improved."

(“London vulnerable to attack on nuclear waste train,” Guardian, 15 October 2001;

But Mr Johnson also said: "It has always been maintained by the regulatory authorities and the nuclear industry in this country that nuclear flasks are not a promising target for terrorists. Nevertheless, work carried out in the US before 11 September indicated that it was a credible scenario to assume that a flask could be sabotaged, and could be punctured with an explosive device.

"We didn't get full details from either the nuclear industry or from other bodies about the arrangements in place to deal with a terrorist threat in this country. But what we were concerned to hear was that they didn't consider it a very plausible threat which suggest that there aren't many precautions in place to deal with it."

(“Nuclear waste trains 'at risk from terrorists’,” Independent, 15 October 2001;

Seven years earlier, London-based writer Mary Flanagan had written a controversial article in the same newspaper, highly critical of the hazards being imposed on Londoners from nuclear transports through the city. (“Deadly cargo: Nuclear waste travelling through London poses unacceptable risks,” Independent, 30 August  1994;

She wrote: “Few shoppers in the throbbing Brixton street market realise that a train carrying irradiated waste from Germany and Switzerland trundles past regularly on the bridge overhead, en route to the Sellafield reprocessing plant in Cumbria. No authority has seen fit to inform them. Several minutes later, the same train and its toxic cargo will hurtle through Olympia, past the exhibition centre, tower blocks and elegant white houses of Kensington.”

The Political Ecology Research Group, led by Dr Peter Taylor, had already reported that a 10% leak from a ruptured  nuclear flask would render a strip of land widening out from the site of the accident uninhabitable for 125 years.

Virtually all these recommendations were ignored by the then Labour Government, including by current London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who became transport minister rin June 1999.  Carrying out a risk assessment on the lines suggested was voted down by the GLA, but the independent Mayor, Ken Livingstone, subsequently in September 2005 set up his own £17,500 evaluation, and Commissioned technical contractor SERCO to do the work. 

The risk assessment would include, the GLA Business Management and Appointments committee decided, establishing the following key objectives:


• The implications of current nuclear train routes for impacts in the event of an incident, in particular allowing for population and employment densities around key routes and sites; and

• The opportunity, benefits and costs of reducing risk and/or exposure particularly through re-routing transport of nuclear fuel away from London

The need for the study was outlined thus:

“Recent events highlight the terrorist threat that exists within the UK, in particular within London. The rail lines carrying nuclear waste through London could be an attractive target for terrorism. Recognising that trains do also run through other points of Great Britain, the size of London’s population further highlights the vulnerability of London and the need for the study.

A London-specific study of risks of the transport of spent nuclear fuel by rail through London was an explicit recommendation of the London Assembly Nuclear Waste Trains Investigative Committee ‘Scrutiny of the transportation of nuclear waste by train through London’ report in October 2001”.

In June 2007 it was discovered that the GLA had decided not to publish SERCO's final report.

The London-based Nuclear Trains Action Group however got sent a copy of the unpublished report, which revealed that the study only considered "accidents" not "deliberate acts".  Dave Polden of NTAG noted cynically “Since one of the main purposes of the risk assessment recommended by the Investigative Committee had been ‘consideration of the risk from sabotage or terrorist attack’ it is no wonder the GLA decided not to publish the report.” 

Subsequently there has been no known effort to carry such a critical study.


What travels on the trains?

Each transport flask contains about 2 tons of rods, and about 1 million Curies of radioactivity, or 37 thousand million million Bequerels (one Bequerel is equivalent to one click on a geiger counter; the Hiroshima bomb released about 3 million Curies). The outside surface of these flasks emit radiation well above background levels: even the 14-inch thick walls are inadequate shielding against the highly radioactive rods. If the water coolant was lost, the fuel rods would overheat then combust, dispersing a massive dose of radioactivity into the atmosphere. They are a highly dangerous cargo, which the nuclear  industry and Government technically describe as "spent nuclear fuel" (SNF)..

From the railheads near Sizewell and Dungeness power stations the trains carry this nuclear waste through London to Willesden Junction, where they are marshalled into one train which later travels up to Sellafield in Cumbria. Here the rods (along with those from other power stations) are 'reprocessed', initially by stripping the now radioactive cladding and dissolving the contents in nitric acid. Uranium and plutonium are eventually extracted and stored (and currently unused

nuclear waste train

Train spotting

The trains are easily recognized by the large grey or cream 'cabins' covering the flasks, the long flat-bed waggons, and the short trains. Leaving nearby the power stations there are typically no more than three waggons to a train, but marshalled further along the route there might be up to ten. They are now usually pulled by engines labelled DRS (Direct Rail Services) - the picture above shows a flask being shunted. There used to be a guard's van at the rear of the train, but this was stopped to save money. The trains also make the return journey with the empty flasks, but sometimes take slightly different routes.

The trains typically travel once or twice a week, but this depends on several factors: the number of fuel rods in the ponds, the length of time they have been there, and the current state of the relevant reprocessing plant at Sellafield.

The Mark Thomas Comedy Product showed, on a TV programme broadcast on 10 February 1999  how easy it would be for terrorists to intercept a nuclear waste train from Dungeness. There are quiet spots on the line from Dungeness and Sizewell power stations, the trains are unguarded, and they no longer carry a guards van (so the flasks can only be observed from one view.


Regulated to death

The UK regulations covering the safety and security of transport of nuclear materials are based on the recommendations of the IAEA (Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material 2012 IAEA,

The UK nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation,(ONR) states of its responsibilities and mission: “ONR Transport carries out a range of regulatory activities to assure the safe transport of radioactive materials. Approval is granted for the designs of packages used to carry high-hazard radioactive materials to ensure they meet exacting international safety standards, and the packages are built to robust quality assurance plans, and are correctly used and maintained. Regulation is also carried out through a programme of targeted, risk-informed inspections and engagement with duty holders which may lead to interventions. Inspections examine the management systems utilised by duty holders, as well as compliance with safety and security legal requirements. ONR Transport inspects duty holders across nuclear; non-nuclear; and industrial, medical and carrier sectors.” (


The then energy minister Andrea Leadsom told Parliament on 13 April 2016 that “Details of safety events involving the transport of nuclear material both by rail and on the strategic road network can be found in the following report: Events reported to Nuclear Safety Regulator 2001-2015: This details in no less than 3,866 events of varying degree of significance, including those reported under the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009’ for the transport of radioactive materials. The report notes “the incorporation of radioactive material transport regulation into ONR (in October 2011) correlates with the increase in the number of transport events reported to ONR since that time.” ( emphasis added)  (



Malicious threats to nuclear material transports

One of the key issues for UK nuclear regulators and policy makers is around the transportation of radioactive materials and their protection from a malicious attack.

Many transports of radioactive materials involve mildly radioactive material such as

pharmaceuticals, ores, low-level radioactive waste, and consumer products containing

radionuclides (e.g., watches, smoke detectors). However, increasing quantities of much more radioactive - and thus hazardous - nuclear materials such as irradiated (―spent‖) nuclear fuel and fresh, un-irradiated nuclear fuel, including some containing plutonium (in so-called MOX or a mixed oxide plutonium-uranium mix), is due to be transported around the UK as the existing nuclear programme is wound down and decommissioned; and a new build programme of over a dozen new reactors distributed around the country is planned.

High-level nuclear waste materials, such as spent nuclear fuel, are transported in very heavy, robust containers, which must meet extremely demanding standards to ensure their integrity in the most severe conditions, including sabotage.

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US caused the German government to reassess the security of its nuclear power plants and spent fuel storage facilities. The

Reaktorsicherheitskommission (RSK), the German Nuclear Safety Commission, issued a statement recommending that an analysis be carried out on each plant to assess its vulnerability to September 11-type attacks. Plant operators assert that terrorist attacks are a general risk of society and should be


A series of tests simulating terrorist attacks on transportation casks were done in Germany, France, the United States (for the German government), and Switzerland (for the Swiss government). Additional tests may have been done that are not publicly acknowledged.


As long ago as 1979–1980, at the German Army facility in Meppen, a ―hollow charge‖ (i.e., shaped charge) weapon was fired at a ductile cast iron plate and fuel assembly dummy to simulate a CASTOR cask. The cask plate was perforated but release fractions from the fuel assembly were not examined. From this experiment, the German government concluded that the wall thickness of the cask should not be less than 300 millimetres.


Other tests were carried out at the Centre d‘Etude de Gramat in France in 1992 on behalf of the BMU involving shaped charges directed at a CASTOR cask filled with nine fuel element dummies  A256 (NB142) with depleted uranium. The shaped charge perforated the cask and penetrated fuel elements. This damaged the fuel and resulted in the release of fuel particles from the cask. (emphaisis added)


(NFLA Policy Briefing 145: Nuclear security concerns – how secure is the UK civil nuclear sector? May 2016;


Britain’s equivalent was a spectacular staged crash by the former Central Electricity Generating Board  (CEGB) on 17 July 1984, with the aim of publicly demonstrating the integrity of the  SNF transport  flask. It gained n massive immediate  positive publicity at the time. But the technical report on the  crash was published far away from those it  affected, at a nuclear material packaging and transport conference held in Las Vegas, where the damage done to the flask was admitted

As Trevor Dutton of OveArup engineering partners wrote in his article “Spent fuel transport: it’s probabilistically safe “ in a special edition of Nuclear Engineering International in 1993 “Some further problems remain, in particular the paucity of data relating to serious saccidents as well as the lack of generally accepted reference risk criteria.”


That worryingly remains the case


Nuclear flask train crash simulation


The most spectacular trial at the Old Dalby Test Track was the Central Electricity Generating Board Nuclear Flask crash test, which took place on 17th July 1984. The collision was a public demonstration staged to dispel fears that a nuclear waste flask could not survive the impact of a rail crash. Needless to say the flask survived intact unlike the locomotive.

Two redundant Class 46 locomotives were selected (in case one broke down). These were 46009 and 46023, which was not used and eventually cut up. The unfortunate 46009 was coupled to four Mk1 coaches and set off from the northern end of the line with the controls set and no-one in the cab. This was achieved by means of an extra brake isolating cock situated on the sole bar of the loco next to the footsteps. Once everything was set in the cab, the power handle was opened and the driver baled out and closed the brake cock from the ground - and away she went!

The site chosen was just to the south of Old Dalby control centre, where the main test line was cut and slewed across into the old headshunt area of the former Army base exchange sidings. Extensive grandstands were erected for the invited guests and members of the press and the area was equipped with security fencing and patrolled by guards. This fencing survives to this day in some areas around Old Dalby.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Contractors' conflict of interest scandal shadow looms over Hinkley C

Letter sent to the Times:
Your environment editor mentions in passing (“Hinkley nuclear deal ‘cost public £15  billion more than it should have, “ The Times, 23 June; ) LeighFisher, a technical consultancy  had a potential conflict of interest in its role advising ministers  on the Hinkley Point  C (HPC)  nuclear power plant  deal.
But the reason the National Audit Office report concluded “The arrangements the {Business} Department put in place to manage the potential conflict of interest were insufficient” are quite extraordinary, and underpin why such a bad financial  decision to go ahead with plant  could have happened, and could now cost taxpayers up to an extra £30 billion (
Inexplicably the Government appointed LeighFisher to advise independently on the prospective costs of HPC, for a taxpayer–funded fee of  £1.2 million. NAO states that this “largely involved providing technical services to verify whether EDF’s construction cost estimates [for HPC] were reasonable.” It renewed the original 2012 contract in 2015.

Ministers knew all along that LeighFisher was a subsidiary of the Jacobs Engineering  Group, that the NAO  explains “had provided engineering and project management services, including seconded staff, to EDF in relation to the HPC deal.”
This poacher and gamekeeper role should have been obvious to anyone, and, as such huge sums of public (ie taxpayers’) money were involved, should have set alarm bells ringing in ministerial ears.

Instead, a series of ineffectual measures to obviate the conflict of interest were set up, but, NAO records, “LeighFisher only signed the agreement for ‘ethical wall arrangements’ in October 2015”

NAO rightly excoriates ministers concluding the responsible Department “did not stipulate to LeighFisher the arrangements required to manage the potential conflict from the outset of the engagement in 2012. This means there was no active consideration or assurance that the conflict of interest did not have an impact on LeighFisher’s work.

NAO adds that “even when the responsible Department did stipulate ethical wall arrangements, they were below the standard we would expect in this sort of engagement.”

Worse still, NAO reports that the Government admitted LeighFisher indeed had “input from Jacobs’ employees during its cost verification exercise.”

This devastating report surely should be the very first  put under examination when the Public Accounts Committee is imminently reformed in Parliament.

NAO has unveiled very expensive scandal, for which taxpayers will pay very heavily.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

UK needs to avoid becoming a nuclear rogue state post Brexit

Letter sent to The Guardian:
One of the more obscure new bills unveiled in the Queen’s speech is one covering “nuclear safeguards” as part of repatriation of  legislation post Brexit.

When your energy correspondent  reported earlier  on the implications of  the UK leaving Euratom, (“UK exit from EU atomic treaty under Brexit 'will delay power stations,' Guardian, 27 January;   an anonymous government spokeswoman was quoted as asserting that the UK wanted to see a continuity of cooperation and standards. “We remain absolutely committed to the highest standards of nuclear safety, safeguards and support for the industry. Our aim is clear – we want to maintain our mutually successful civil nuclear cooperation with the EU.”

The government misleadingly describes the main benefits of the Bill as being to ensure that the UK continues to meet our international obligations for nuclear safeguards, as applies to civil nuclear material through the International Atomic Energy Agency. (

 Currently international inspection of UK nuclear plants and nuclear explosive materials to ensure the UK pledge not to divert these plants or materials to military misuse is verified, by the EU’s Euratom agency on behalf of the UN’s International Atomic Energy  Agency (IAEA) in Vienna,  under a treaty signed in September 1978 between the UK, Euratom and the IAEA. 

 As our nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR)  puts it “The UK voluntary offer safeguards agreement with the IAEA and Euratom came into force in 1978 and specifies the UKs acceptance of the application of IAEA safeguards on all source or special fissionable material in facilities or parts thereof within the United Kingdom, subject to exclusions for national security reasons only.” .(

The agreement is voluntary in the sense it is entered into by the UK to demonstrate to non-nuclear weapons states that the UK , as a nuclear WMD state, is prepared to suffer an equivalent disruption – dubbed “equlity of misery” - of its commercial nuclear plants by safeguards applications

But to demonstrate clearly the UK safeguards agreement is not prohibitive of internal proliferation, under article 14 of the 1978 agreement, the UK has withdrawn nuclear materials from peaceful use commitments “for national security reasons” at least 650 times since 1978, according to figures released by the Office for Nuclear Regulation

In renegotiating the new treaty, the UK should exclude this permissive withdrawal article, that allows the UK to militiarise its civil nuclear operations with impunity, while excoriating  other states to  be bound by their own non  diversion international treaty   commitments.

It is now time energy and foreign ministers and their advisors turn their attention to what they are going to do to ensure nuclear safeguards continuity in the UK post Brexit. But to give the new oversight role to our national nuclear regulator (ONR), as the bill proposes, will surely be unacceptable to other nations, as it would de facto be self-regulation.

The UK must surely avoid becoming a nuclear rogue state by default.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Wrong priorities and poor judgment revealed in K&C Borough council internal reports on Grenfell tower refurbishment

Below are two internal Kensington & Chelsea Borough Council  reports on the planning of the Grenfell Tower refurbishment. I have highlighted some salient statements.



11 MAY 2016


The purpose of this report is to provide the Housing Property and Scrutiny Committee with information and recommendations from the Board Member review of the Grenfell Tower regeneration project.




1.1 In association with the development of the Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre projects, which completed in summer 2015, it was decided that money should be invested into Grenfell Tower. Stock condition information highlighted that Grenfell Tower was in poor condition and therefore it was agreed to invest £10.3m on improvements. The money invested came from the sale of basements at Elm Park Gardens and was not part of the HRA capital programme. The works commenced on site in June 2014 and are due to be completed at the end of March 2016. Final landscaping works will then be undertaken during April and May typically the planting season.


1.2 The scope of works included the following:


 New heating and hot water

 New double glazed windows

 Thermal cladding of the building

 Smoke/safety and ventilation works

 Improved foyer and door entry

 Associated environmental works

 9x new hidden homes

 New nursery

 New boxing club

 Landscaping improvements


1.3 The contractor Rydon was selected to undertake the work supported by consultants Artelia for contract administration and Max Fordham as specialist mechanical and electrical consultants. Rydon were responsible for design, construction and resident liaison work. The




TMO worked with all partners and were responsible for the overall project management.


1.4 Resident consultation indicated their preferred approaches to resident engagement were: letters & newsletters, informal “drop-in” sessions and one to one consultation. These approaches were adopted throughout the project.


1.5 A group of residents living in Grenfell Tower formed a resident compact halfway through the project in June 2015. The TMO worked with the compact to address issues that were raised relating to the regeneration project. At full council on 2nd December 2015 a petition signed by 51 residents was tabled at the meeting. The matter was referred to the Housing and Property Scrutiny committee and a speech from one of the compact members was presented to the meeting of the 6th January 2016. At the Board meeting of the 5th January the KCTMO Board members were made aware of the petition and agreed that a delegated group of board members would review the issues raised. The Scrutiny committee was then informed that the Board would review the project and respond to the matters raised in the speech by the compact. The Board has previously been emailed a full copy of this speech.


1.6 All members of the Board were invited on the 19th January to express an interest in joining the review group. The following members put themselves forward:


Paula Fance – Chair

Kush Kanodia

Mary Benjamin

Councillor Condon-Simmonds

Deborah Price

Anne Duru

1.7 An initial scoping meeting was held on 24th February for the Group to define the scope of the review. It was agreed that the review would be undertaken over one full day and would cover the following areas:

 Resident consultation and engagement

 The position of the HIU in the hallways

 Allegations of threats, lies and intimidation

 Response to complaints

 Quality of work and site management

 Compensation




1.8 The review day held on Saturday 12th March commenced with a presentation covering background information to the project and detailed information on each area of the review as set out in 2.7 above. The Group was then taken on a tour of Grenfell Tower to view; the construction works, the show flat, the boxing club and the hidden homes. Each member was provided with a full pack for the day which included the detailed information covering each area of the scope. The group discussed each point mentioned above in detail and the recommendations were noted for future projects of this nature.




2.1 The following recommendations were the outcome of the discussion held by the Group:

 The names and addresses of all those attending public meetings should be recorded and minutes taken of each meeting for future reference should this be required.

 Where projects span over 12 months in duration the initial resident profile survey information is repeated on a six monthly basis. This would help to ensure that any additional needs that have not been identified at the beginning of the project are identified.

 Where residents have language requirements and have chosen to use family members to help translate then this information should be recorded and signed off in order to help ensure that if the family member is not available then translation services can be provided.


 A procedure is drafted to outline the different stages involved in gaining access on future projects this procedure could then be sent to only those residents that were not cooperating to avoid any misunderstanding and to ensure that due processes are always followed.

 The Group agreed that this report be shared with RBKC (attached as Part B Report B2)



3.1 The Group recognised that there were significant challenges with the project and acknowledged that residents would have experienced inconvenience due to the nature of this type of construction work and the constraints of the particular design of Grenfell Tower. This disruption included:


 Noisy work: Demolition and drilling

 Access: Use of lifts by contractors to transport materials




Pipework: Retrofit of pipes

 Additional floors for lifts

 Wet Trades (e.g. plastering)

 Sub-contractors that went into administration during the project

 Maintaining services (heating and hot water) whilst residents are in situ


3.2 The Group were satisfied with the following mitigating actions that were undertaken to limit the disruption caused by the above:

 Limiting noisy work hours: 9am to 3pm

 Lifts: one for passengers and only one used for materials.

 Two flats were made available for respite facilities for residents to use

 Rydons RLO was based on site to deal with all specific issues on a day to day basis


3.3 It was further acknowledged that residents had experienced disruption from both the KALC project and the Grenfell Tower works over an extended period of time since December 2012.


3.4 The Group commended the contractor Rydon on their performance and ability to deliver a complex construction project. They considered that a number of high quality hidden homes had been delivered together with excellent new facilities for the boxing club and community room. A door knocking exercise was undertaken in December 2015 to ask residents if they were satisfied with the works. 77 of the 120 households responded and of these 90% of residents confirmed that the improvements to heating and hot water were working effectively. 83% of residents were happy with their new windows.


3.5 Rydons are an experienced contractor that has a good reputation for delivering this type of construction work where residents are in occupation. The combination of all partners involved in this project has contributed to very successful improvements to the building and residents homes. The regeneration works have provided individual control over their own utility usage and residents will benefit from increased thermal insulation.


3.6 The Group commended the excellent work of the Director of Assets and Regeneration and the KCTMO team involved in high quality management of the project over 22 months.


3.7 The Group noted that a full project review and resident satisfaction survey would be undertaken six months after the project is




completed. The results of this review will be presented to a future Board meeting.


Laura Johnson

Director of Housing

Background Papers used in the Preparation of this Report:


Contact Officer: Ms Celia Caliskan, General Needs Housing Commissioning Manager.

Tel: 020 7361 2238 and E-mail:






16 JULY 2013

AN UPDATE ON GRENFELL TOWER IMPROVEMENT WORKS AND THE RECENT POWER SURGES The purpose of this report is to inform members of the Grenfell Tower improvement works and the recent power surges.



1. Introduction


1.1 This report provides Members of the Housing and Property Scrutiny Committee with an update on the Grenfell Tower improvement works and the recent power surges.

1.2 There have been a number of communications from a small number of residents in the form of blogs and open “round robin” e-mails on these two separate topics. This report sets out to clarify the current situation in regard to both the planned improvement works to Grenfell Tower and the recent power surges.

Grenfell Tower Improvement Works

2. Background


2.1 Grenfell Tower is located on Lancaster West Estate, adjacent to the site of the KALC project which is currently on site. On 2nd May 2012, RBKC Cabinet approved a budget of £6m to deliver major improvements to the fabric of Grenfell Tower, including new homes and improved accessible office space. These improvements were to be funded from income generated from the sale of basement spaces in Elm Park Gardens.

2.2 Subsequently, the TMO Board proposed that the budget for the scheme be increased to enable additional investment. This additional investment will deliver the renewal of key mechanical and electrical elements such as the communal heating system, which will complement the proposed investment in the building fabric. As part of the quarterly monitoring process, Cabinet will be asked at its meeting in July to increase the budget for the scheme to 9.7m. This can be met from the HRA working balance

3. Scope of the Improvement Works

3.1 A summary of the current, proposed scope of works includes:

 Window renewal

 Roof renewal

 Thermal external cladding of the building

 New entrance lobby

 Communal redecoration

 New communal heating system (with individual control)

 Hidden Homes – seven new flats

 Relocate the boxing club

 Relocate the nursery to the ground floor

 Relocate and improve office space within the block

 Improvements to the public realm.


3.2 These works will significantly improve the physical appearance of the building as well as renewing key building elements that are now at the end of their useful life. Residents will have improved control of the heating and hot water supply to their homes and will benefit from significant improvements in the thermal performance of the building. Additional housing will be located in the underused lower levels of the building and improved office accommodation provided.

4. Planning Issues

4.1 In August 2012, a planning application was submitted for the refurbishment proposals to Grenfell Tower. Planners considered this application in November 2012 and have asked for a resubmission including the following amendments:

 Removal of the canopy at 1st floor level

 Give further definition to the roof detailing

Consider alternative colour schemes.


4.2 The Grenfell Design Team has been developing a revised and updated design ahead of a revised planning submission.

5. Procurement

To date, KCTMO have progressed the procurement of the proposed works through the IESI1 Framework. This is the procurement route used for KALC.

1 “Improvement and Efficiency South East”

5.2 Since January, the design team has been working with Leadbitter (the proposed contractor) to bring the scheme within budget and to ensure that the project will deliver value for money. Progress has been slow and Leadbitter currently estimate the cost of works to be £11.278m (inclusive of fees), which is £1.6m above the current, proposed budget.

5.3 A range of options have been considered to bring the scheme within budget. It is now proposed to market test the works through an open OJEU tender to ensure that the best contractor is selected and value for money achieved. Subject to planning and procurement risks, this process will result in a start on site in Quarter 4 of 2013-14. By comparison, the IESI procurement process with Leadbitter would have resulted in a start on site at the end of Quarter 3; however, that route also had a significant risk of delay if a negotiated agreement could not be achieved with the contractor.

5.4 In tandem with this procurement process, the design team will undertake a “Value Engineering” process to maximise the delivery of key project outputs within the proposed budget.

The following is the current indicative timeline for the delivery of the works:

 Prepare tender documents: August 2013

 Planning Approval: September 2013

 Tenders issued: November 2013

 Tender return: December 2013

 Evaluation January 2014

 Contract Award: February 2014

 Start on site: March 2014

 Completion of work: March 2015


6. Resident Engagement

6.1 Resident engagement in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower has been reviewed and actions agreed to ensure that all residents have clear information about the current status of the scheme and are clear about how they can influence the proposals.

6.2 Recent engagement includes:

Grenfell Tower Newsletter: A newsletter was sent to all residents on 14th May giving an update on progress and inviting them to a public meeting.

Public Meeting: A public meeting was held on Monday 17th June. 25 residents attended and commented on the scheme design proposals.


6.3 Next Steps involve a further newsletter which will be sent to Grenfell Tower residents giving feedback and responding to the issues raised at the public meeting. A series of further meetings is planned.


6.4 Further engagement is planned over the summer period to ensure that all residents have an opportunity to engage in finalising the scope of works; be consulted on the designs submitted to planning and be involved in the selection of the contractor for the works. Particular focus will be given to face to face contact with residents to ensure the widest possible engagement.

7. Conclusions

7.1 The refurbishment of Grenfell Tower is a large and complex project and time and careful planning has been required to ensure that the proposals and design of the scheme meet the requirements of residents, RBKC and Planners. Particular focus has been required to ensure that the project representing value for money and can be successfully delivered to the satisfaction of residents.

Grenfell Tower Power Surges

8.1 A series of surges were reported in Grenfell Tower in May 2013 and KCTMO has been actively investigating the cause.

8.2 Residents have been informed in writing and face to face contact has been made with all 45 residents affected to identify and resolve any issues arising.

A summary of the current situation is as follows:


A fault has been identified on the incoming mains supply and a repair has been carried out to a faulty cable. There have been no further surges since this repair was completed and further tests have been carried out on the mains.

 Ongoing monitoring of the incoming electrical supply and we are investigating whether there are other factors that have contributed to the surges.

 Full renewal of the rising electricity main is planned to commence on 7th July. This work will include the installation of surge protection to give additional protection to the block.

 An electrical contractor has carried out electrical testing to all individual properties in the block to ensure that domestic supplies are safe.

 Arrangements have been made for a contractor to inspect any damaged electrical appliances reported by residents

 Details of residents’ damaged equipment are being collected to deal with any compensation claims.

8.3 In summary, KCTMO has carried out some repairs and continue to monitor the situation. It is too early to say whether the problem has been fully resolved and where responsibility lies for the cause. It is possible that the fault that has been rectified is not the primary cause.

8.4 KCTMO has worked hard to keep residents informed throughout by letter and face to face contact. They have also discussed the matter at the residents’ meeting on Monday 17th June and have responded to residents who have made direct contact with the TMO in relation to the surges.

8.5 There has been a considerable volume of communication from a small number of residents in the form of blogs and open “round robin” e-mails, some of which is from people who are not residents of the block. This communication contains a lot of speculation about the cause of the problem. KCTMO has not responded directly to this communication and has focused on keeping residents informed of the facts through direct communication.

8.6 Residents have been advised to inform their insurers of any loss or damage for which they may wish to claim. KCTMO has also stated that they will collect information and pass the details to their insurers. To date 25 residents have submitted claims for damaged electrical goods. These claims are now with RBKC insurers. KCTMO is also making further contact with the 20 residents who have not claimed to ensure there are full details of any loss.

8.7 Financial help has also been offered to residents who may have lost fridge or cooking facilities at the time of the incidents, however, to date no residents took up the offer.




Contact Officers:

Peter Maddison, Director of Assets and Regeneration, KCTMO

Tel: 020 8964 6140 and E-mail:

Amanda Johnson, Head of Housing Commissioning

Tel:0207 361 2178 and