I would have ripped off badly fitted Grenfell cladding, says contractor

A contractor in charge of fitting cladding to Grenfell Tower would have “ripped it off and redone it” had he seen the bad quality of some of the work, an inquiry has heard.

Gaps and rough edges could be seen on “shocking” pictures of “poor workmanship” shown to Mark Osborne, a director at Osborne Berry, during Monday’s hearing.

His company was subcontracted by cladding designer Harley Facades to install the cladding system, and Osborne Berry further subcontracted this work out to self-employed fitters.

Mr Osborne was shown a variety of pictures from Grenfell Tower, including a cavity barrier which was roughly cut, and another with poorly fitted edges with some stripping starting to peel away.

The barriers were intended to stop fire spreading in the cavity between the original concrete of the 24-storey block and the newly clad exterior.

Asked what he would have done had he seen this work, Mr Osborne said: “I would have ripped it off and redone it.

“Probably at the time I would have got the fitters who did it to rip it off and redo it.”

Shown a further image of a poorly fitting join between two cavity barriers, Mr Osborne said: “That’s not good. That would have been taken out and redone.”

Of a visible gap in a cavity barrier, he admitted: “That’s poor workmanship, that should have been tighter.”

Pushed by inquiry lawyer Kate Grange QC, Mr Osborne agreed that the pictures were “shocking”, and demonstrated “obviously work not carried out with reasonable skill and care”, but said it would have been an “impossibility” to “keep an eye on everything that was going on”.

He said: “You couldn’t see everything on the building before it was covered, basically.

“It would even be hard for building control or clerk of works to see some of these things because they were being covered up so quickly.”

The cladding system that wrapped the west London tower block has been blamed for the rapid spread of the fire that claimed 72 lives in June 2017.

Also on Monday, victims of the fire found out they will continue to be barred from hearings as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

The bereaved, survivors and residents of the tower have been prevented from attending the inquiry in-person since summer, when the building’s capacity was reduced to comply with social distancing rules.

The inquiry had initially paused in mid-March as a result of lockdown.

A statement on the inquiry website said: “For several weeks, the inquiry has been progressing plans to allow bereaved, survivor and resident core participants (BSRs) to attend the hearings in person, as this remains a priority.

“The news this week that the Government is reimposing many restrictions means it would be irresponsible for the inquiry now to begin implementing this plan and relaxing its arrangements.”

The statement added that the inquiry intends to put a plan in place to allow victims to attend again when the Government-issued Covid alert level is reduced back down from four to three.

The inquiry continues.