Like all of you, I was shocked by the devastation and horror of the Grenfell Tower fire last week. My thoughts and prayers are with all those who lost loved ones or suffered as a result of the fire. My gratitude also goes to our brave firefighters and emergency services who excelled in the most difficult of circumstances.
As we come to terms with the aftermath of the fire, I wanted to let you know what I’ll be doing as your local MP to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated elsewhere in the UK, particularly in Havant.
It is right that this process starts with the independent public inquiry that has been ordered by the Prime Minister to investigate the causes of the fire. If this judge-led investigation finds that our fire safety rules surrounding tall buildings need to be strengthened, then I’ll support appropriate action in Parliament. I have already met the Housing & Planning Minister and the Fire & Policing Minister in Parliament to discuss fire safety and to receive an update on the situation at Grenfell Tower itself.
I also want to let you know about steps I am taking locally to ensure the safety of residents at Solent, Langstone and Chichester Houses - the three high rise tower blocks in West Leigh.
Unlike at Grenfell Tower, these flats are not run by our local authority, Havant Borough Council, but are instead owned by The Guinness Partnership, a housing association. I have already contacted Guinness, who confirmed that the tower blocks are regularly fire checked and that the type of cladding used at Grenfell has not been used here in Havant.
Guinness have told me they have also written to all residents of the flats to inform them that they will comply with any recommendations made by the investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire. Hampshire Fire and Rescue will also attend weekly meetings with residents to provide advice and reassurance.
I have also written to Neil Braithwaite, Chairman of The Guinness Partnership, to re-state the importance of fire safety and to request a written guarantee that his organisation will swiftly implement any recommendations made by the independent enquiry, and take any other steps to ensure the safety of local residents that might be appropriate in light of the Grenfell investigation.
While I know many people are angry about how quickly the fire spread, it is important that we do not jump to any conclusions and we should now wait for the initial findings from experts. In the meantime, it is right that there can be no shortcuts in our response to the tragedy and I support the Government’s urgent review of the 4,000 tower blocks across the UK.
I will continue to support efforts to learn the lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire, and support Havant Borough Council, housing associations and emergency services in the Havant constituency to safeguard local residents.
Update 28 June:
I thought I’d update you on the work I have been doing to seek reassurances for residents living in high rise flats in the Havant constituency. Below is the full letter I have received from The Guinness Partnership, who own 168 flats in three high rise buildings in Leigh Park.
While I’m thankful that none of the buildings have the same type of cladding as used at Grenfell Tower in London, I welcome the review by Guinness into fire safety and I have asked for a copy of their final report to be sent to me.
Nationally, I fully support the announcement yesterday by the Government of a new independent expert advisory panel to advise on any immediate measures that can be put in place to make buildings safe. I have already met the Fire Minister and the Housing & Planning Minister about Grenfell and the actions we can take going forward.
This expert panel, which is separate to the Public Inquiry, will look at any immediate action that is required so the public can be confident everything possible is being done to make all public and private buildings safe as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, it is important that we continue to test cladding from high rise buildings and act where appropriate.
Here in the Havant constituency I will continue to liaise with The Guinness Partnership, Havant Borough Council, the Fire Service, and local residents, regarding fire safety measures in Leigh Park’s tower blocks.