The Daily Telegraph

Editorial Comment


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

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