Ed­i­to­rial Com­ment

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page -

sir – The con­struc­tion of build­ings in Lon­don was con­trolled be­tween 1667 and 1985 by the Lon­don Build­ing Acts and as­so­ci­ated con­struc­tional by­laws.

These were ad­min­is­tered by dis­trict sur­vey­ors, ap­pointed by the su­per­in­tend­ing ar­chi­tect to the Greater Lon­don Coun­cil but in­de­pen­dent as statu­tory of­fi­cers who not only helped write the acts but also had the fi­nal say over any forms of con­struc­tion. Many sec­tions of the by­laws in­cluded the phrase “to the sat­is­fac­tion of the dis­trict sur­veyor”.

The 28 dis­trict sur­vey­ors (all highly ex­pe­ri­enced con­struc­tion pro­fes­sion­als, usu­ally both char­tered en­gi­neers and char­tered sur­vey­ors), work­ing with the GLC’S build­ings reg­u­la­tion de­part­ment, en­sured that all build­ings built in the old Lon­don County Coun­cil area were safely built.

The old maxim in the ser­vice was: first, make sure it does not fall down; se­condly, make sure that it does not burn down; and thirdly, use your com­mon sense for all other mat­ters.

This ex­cel­lent ser­vice was abol­ished in 1985 and re­placed with the in­fe­rior Na­tional Build­ing Reg­u­la­tions sys­tem. The Lon­don dis­trict sur­vey­ors were not re­spon­si­ble to any coun­cil and so could al­ways do what they saw fit, free from po­lit­i­cal or fi­nan­cial pres­sure.

The fire at Gren­fell Tower would not have oc­curred un­der the Lon­don Build­ing Acts and by­laws. Proper fire breaks in the cladding would have been in­sisted on and, more im­por­tantly, en­forced. Con­trol­ling fire-spread was the foun­da­tion of the 1667 Act for the Re­build­ing of Lon­don and its ba­sics were still in place when I stood down as dis­trict sur­veyor for Chelsea in 1983.

No com­bustible ma­te­ri­als would have been al­lowed on the out­side of a build­ing, no cav­i­ties in cladding al­lowed to cre­ate ver­ti­cal fire or air path­ways. Ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal fire breaks were the foun­da­tion of the pro­tec­tion prin­ci­ples.

A build­ing would have been reg­u­larly in­spected by the re­spected Lon­don Build­ing Reg­u­la­tions De­part­ment of the GLC and if found want­ing, the own­ers, who­ever they were, would have been pros­e­cuted.

My for­mer dis­trict sur­veyor col­leagues will not be sur­prised that this dis­as­ter hap­pened. When­ever politi­cians and ac­coun­tants are in ul­ti­mate con­trol of com­plex build­ing mat­ters, in place of ex­pe­ri­enced con­struc­tion pro­fes­sion­als who do not have to an­swer to them, we will see more dis­as­ters like this one. Ter­ence Jenk­ins

Tring, Hert­ford­shire sir – Fight­ing fires from within tall build­ings is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult.

Truck-mounted hy­draulic fire­fight­ing plat­forms in ex­cess of 300ft have been com­mer­cially avail­able for at least 20 years and, while they are ex­pen­sive, not to have at least one of these ma­chines avail­able in the rich­est city in our na­tion is a gross over­sight. Chris Hardy Dol­lar, Clack­man­nan­shire

sir – The sur­veyor Si­mon Fryer (Let­ters, June 15), to­gether with a shocked na­tion, will have seen the flames lick­ing speed­ily up the very out­side walls of Gren­fell Tower.

He ad­vo­cates ex­ter­nal steel stair­cases for such tower-blocks. These may work else­where but it seems un­likely that they would have been of use in this tragic case. John Til­siter Radlett, Hert­ford­shire

sir – I rou­tinely hear smoke alarms bleep­ing be­cause no one has changed the bat­tery. I worked with ter­mi­nally ill peo­ple and some have no one to do the job for them. Un­for­tu­nately, the lo­cal fire ser­vice did not help. Gary Martin Lon­don E17

sir – While the tower was still burn­ing, Jeremy Cor­byn couldn’t re­sist scor­ing the basest of po­lit­i­cal points and blam­ing it on “the cuts”. Ly­sette Pen­ston Cookham Dean, Buck­ing­hamshire

Drury Lane theatre burn­ing, 1809, de­spite an iron safety cur­tain and rooftop wa­ter tanks

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