Painful lessons must be learnt after Grenfell, says WLB panel

The construction industry must learn the painful lessons from the Grenfell disaster – that was the overriding message delivered by a panel of experts at the West London Summer Property Lunch.

Over 50 property professionals gathered at the Kia Oval earlier this month for the event, organised by West London Business (WLB). The audience heard a fascinating and important debate that focussed on the changing face of high-rise developments in the wake of the fire that ripped through Grenfell Tower last year, causing 72 deaths and devastating many families.

Mark Jackson, Development Director and Head of Planning at Fairview New Homes; Geoff Wilkinson, Director, Wilkinson Construction Consultants; Stuart Baillie, Head of Planning, GL Hearn; Greg Jones, Associate Director, Child Graddon Lewis and Neil Deely, architect and founding partner Metropolitan Workshop all shared their thoughts on how the disaster has affected the industry.

Jackson began by highlighting the “positive change” already taking place, including the improvements in fire safety such as ensuring sprinklers were now installed in every tower. He insisted high-rise developments were still a good option for home delivery and said good planning was a key factor going forward.

Baillie, from GL Hearn, talked through the findings of the Tall Building Survey 2018 (published by New London Architecture and GL Hearn) that showed there had been no dip in the development of tall buildings, as may have been expected, and said that high-rise would remain an important part of solving the housing crisis.

Wilkinson and Jones offered their thoughts on how the construction industry had failed and where the responsibility for Grenfell laid, before Deely highlighted his visions for the future. He said the disaster was a “shocking reminder of collective failure of the industry” and that it was time to “rediscover our pride in achieving excellence and leaving behind a built environment that is safe, durable, sustainable and, dare I say it, even beautiful.”

Andrew Dakers, chief executive of West London Business, finished by saying: “Grenfell was an incident that left hearts and lives broken in West London. It has had an absolutely devastating impact. The cultural change that has been articulated today is something that clearly as an industry we have to take forward in the months and years ahead.”

The afternoon marked the launch of the West London Property Network – a new WLB initiative that provides members with access to a series of events throughout the year, including three property lunches and a dinner at MIPIM Cannes, plus many other additional benefits.

The West London Autumn Property Lunch will be held on Friday 16 November. For the full list of West London Business events visit: https://www.westlondon.com/events2/calendar/

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