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Grenfell Tower Fire: RBKC Chief Quits as Survivors to be Rehoused in £2bn Luxury Flats

The burnt out shell of the Grenfell apartment tower block is seen in North Kensington, London, Britain, June 17, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Smoke billows from a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall - RTS16ZRN

Inferno: Smoke billows from the charred remains of Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, west London

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea chief executive officer has resigned over the handling of the fire that claimed 79 lives at Grenfell Tower in west London.

In a statement on the council website Holgate stated the communities and local government secretary had “required the leader of the council to seek my resignation”.

Holgate who had moved into the post from neighbouring Hammersmith and Fulham in 2014 had resolved to stay put despite the barrage of criticisms about the lack of any visible disaster management and council-signposted relief operation in the wake of the blaze.

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Resignation: Nicholas Holgate is the first head to roll in the fallout from Grenfell Tower fire disaster | FM-WORLD.CO.UK

Irate residents and protesters from Grenfell Tower had recently stormed the council headquaters in Hornton Street to demand a coordinated response to the catastrophe. Also in the firing line ave been Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation, an arm’s-length management organisation (ALMO)

Holgate said: “Serving the families so desperately affected by the heart-breaking tragedy at Grenfell Tower remains the highest priority of the Council. Despite my wish to have continued, in very challenging circumstances, to lead on the executive responsibilities of the Council, I have decided that it is better to step down from my role, once an appropriate successor has been appointed.

“Success in our efforts requires leadership across London that sustains the confidence and support of central Government. There is a huge amount still to do for the victims of the fire, requiring the full attention of this Council and many others. If I stayed in post, my presence would be a distraction.

“Whilst the public inquiry and other investigations will get to the truth of the causes of this tragedy and the management of its aftermath, I strongly believe that Councillors and officers have always endeavoured to have the interests of our residents at heart and will continue to do so.”

Accepting his resignation, leader of the council, Nick Paget-Brown said: “It is with great regret that I have today accepted Nicholas Holgate’s resignation. Like everyone else, the Council has been grief-stricken by the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire and has sought to provide the greatest level of support we can to victims. That is a huge challenge and Nicholas has led from the front in seeking to do this. However, the Council will now need to work in a new way with different partners to take this forward.

“Nicholas has made a huge contribution to Kensington and Chelsea during his eight years with us and is greatly admired by staff and members. I am enormously grateful to him.”

Rehousing Plans in £2bn Complex

21 June—Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire are to be rehomed in a £2bn luxury housing development in the heart of Kensington, the government has said on Wednesday (21 June).

Sixty-eight one and two-bedroom flats have been acquired at the Kensington Row development, it added.

The apartments at the old DWP and Inland Revenue offices, Charles House, are located on the edge of the borough’s border with Hammersmith are “newly-built social housing” in a complex where the price of private homes starts at £1.5m. When the development was launched it became the tallest residential tower in Kensington for 30 years after Erno Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower was built.

At least 79 people—including those still missing have been presumed dead— and many more were left homeless after fire engulfed the west London tower block exactly a week ago.

The complex includes a 24-hour concierge service and a private cinema, the website of Berkeley Homes subsidiary developer St Edward’s states.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said extra public money had been found so the flats could be fitted out more quickly.

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Relocation: Survivors will be rehoused in luxury flats at St. Edward’s development in Kensington Row

It said the “expectation is that these new properties will be offered as one of the options to permanently rehouse residents from Grenfell Tower”.

In another development the British government plans to introduce a public advocate who will act for bereaved families after any disaster, it announced on Wednesday in the Queen’s Speech, after the catastrophic fire at the social housing tower block in North Kensington.

The government and local authority’s response to the Grenfell Tower blaze has been widely criticised, with complaints from bereaved families and people who lost their homes that they were not given any information or support by official agencies.

“The purpose of the Independent Public Advocate is to keep the bereaved and surviving victims of disasters informed of progress in any relevant investigation and make them fully aware how they can contribute to that investigation,” said the government in a document detailing its legislative programme for the next two years.

“The Public Advocate would ensure that, in the event of disasters involving multiple fatalities and where there are numerous persons affected, no individuals or families are sidelined in what will necessarily be large and complex proceedings,” the document said.

Prime Minister Theresa May, already politically weakened since losing her parliamentary majority in a June 8 election, was heavily criticized for her personal handling of the tower fire, which was perceived to be insensitive.

On a first visit to the scene of the disaster, she met only senior members of the emergency services and stayed away from people affected by the blaze and members of the local community.

On a return visit during which she did meet people who had been caught up in the tragedy, she was booed and heckled by a crowd.

A ‘Day of Rage’ march— from Shepherd’s Bush Green to Westminster’s Houses of Parliament— has also been held a week after the tragedy.

WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

21 June—Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea chief executive officer Nicholas Holgate resigns over the handling of the fire that claimed 79 lives at Grenfell Tower in west London.

21 June—Charity single, Bridge Over Troubled Water, released by 50 entertainers under the banner, Artists for Grenfell.

21 June—Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire are to be rehomed in a £2bn luxury housing development in the heart of Kensington, the government has said on Wednesday (21 June).

16 June—Royal Visit: The Queen and Prince William visited the main relief centre for Grenfell Tower fire victims in west London on Friday (16 June) as  the death toll rose again.

Their visit to the Westway Sports Centre came after police say some of those killed may never be identified with BBC sources speculating the missing could number as many as 76. Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said that of those who were killed, one died in hospital despite all the efforts of NHS staff.

He ruled out any criminal motives for the fire saying there was nothing to indicate the blaze had been started deliberately, and that everyone in hospital had now been identified.

A protest outside Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall saw between 50 and 60 people force their way into the council headquarters on Hornton Street with a list of demands.

One protester said people made homeless needed help “right now”.

The Queen and Duke of Cambridge met volunteers, residents and community representatives during their visit.

The Queen paid tribute to the “bravery” of firefighters and the “incredible generosity” of volunteers now offering support.

Prime Minister Theresa May has since ordered a full public inquiry into the fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower, a west London 70s tower block. NHS England also confirmed 37 casualties have been admitted to hospitals across the capital with 12 victims listed as critical.

London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton told a press briefing on Thursday (15 June) that the operation had now moved from a rescue phase to recovery of bodies of victims believed to have been trapped on the upper floors of the building. She said specially trained sniffer dogs were being prepared to be sent into the charred ruins of the tower block to help in the recovery of corpses and identification as dozens remain unaccounted for. People have been desperately seeking news of missing family and friends.

The PM made a brief private visit to the scene on Thursday (15 June), as questions were being asked about the speed at which the fire spread.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, also visited the site, telling community leaders “the truth has to come out”.

A missing persons leaflet is displayed near a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Paul Hackett   NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. - RTS1759Q

Missing: A missing persons leaflet is displayed near Grenfell tower severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, west London

Cotton said her crews had identified a “number of people, but we know there will be more”. Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy said it would be “wrong and incredibly distressing” to guess the number of the missing residents.

“I know one person was reported 46 times to the casualty bureau,” he said.

A brief search of all floors in the tower has been carried out, but the severity of the fire and amount of debris meant a thorough search would be “difficult and painstaking”, Commander Cotton explained.

Eyewitnesses described residents trapped in the burning tower block, in north Kensington, screaming for help and yelling for their children to be saved. Firefighters rescued many people and were still at work in the smouldering wreckage of the 24-storey block 24 hours after the fire started in the early hours of Wednesday 13 June.

SAFETY FEARS

A firefighter examines material in a tower block severely damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall - RTS171BC

Smouldering: A firefighter inspects charred material at Grenfell Tower blaze being blamed on cladding in north Kensington

Grenfell Tower, built in 1974 housed up to 600 residents in one of the poorest wards in the capital and underwent a two-year £10m refurbishment as part of a wider transformation of the estate, that was completed last year. Work included new exterior cladding — speculated as being responsible for the rapid spread of the fire — and a communal heating system.

The 24-storey tower, containing about 120 flats, is managed by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) on behalf of the Royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

People take photographs of smoke billowing from a tower block severly damaged by a serious fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville - RTS16ZV4

Catastrophic: In scenes reminiscent of 9/11, locals take photographs of smoke billowing from the burning Grenfell tower block in north Kensington, west London

Before and during the refurbishment, the local Grenfell Action Group claimed that the block constituted a fire risk and residents warned that site access for emergency vehicles was “severely restricted”.

Construction firm Rydon, which carried out the refurbishment, said it was “shocked to hear of the devastating fire” and added that the work “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards”.

Council leader Nick Paget-Brown said the buildings were regularly inspected, but a “thorough investigation” was needed.

CONDOLENCE WALL

A message wall is seen near a tower block which was destroyed in a fire disaster, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall - RTS176JN

Community support: A message wall is seen near Grenfell tower destroyed in a fire disaster, in north Kensington, west London

Temporary structures will be built inside the block in order to shore it up before more thorough work can begin.

The cause of the fire, which took more than 24 hours to bring under control, remains unknown.

Throughout the morning, only wisps of smoke were seen coming from the charred building, but flames were later seen flaring up again on a lower floor.

Dozens of people left homeless spent the night in makeshift rescue centres, as well-wishers signed a wall of condolence near the site.

The diverse community with pockets of deprivation and vast swathes of affluent residents have however pulled together. London-born singer Adele and her husband who have a home in nearby Notting Hill visited the scene on Wednesday evening, and was seen comforting people. Singer Rita Ora who grew up in Shepherd’s Bush also joined volunteers to sort donations outside the tower. Photographs and messages of solidarity in English and Arabic have been left for loved ones.

Alongside them are words of anger and calls for justice, with people saying their safety concerns were not heeded.

DISPLACED FAMILIES

Food and other supplies are stored near a tower block which was destroyed in a fire disaster, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall - RTS176J5

Donations: Volunteers sort food and other supplies stored near Grenfell tower which was gutted in a fire disaster, in north Kensington, west London

The local authority – Kensington and Chelsea council – said 44 households had been placed in emergency accommodation so far.

Through the night, people donated food, clothes and blankets for those left without homes and worldly possessions. Volunteers said they had been overwhelmed with donations and were turning people and vans away. Over £1m have also been raised for victims of the tragedy being described as one of UK’s worst fire disasters.

*Friends and families of victims are being advised to call Casualty Bureau on 0800 0961 233. *Grenfell Tower residents advised to go to following relief locations Rugby Portobello Trust, 221 Walmer Road, St. Clement’s Church, 95 Sirdar Road & Tabernacle Christian Centre, Jubilee House, 210 Latimer Road.

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