Tragedies like Grenfell are an inevitable consequence of placing profit over lives and this week at Ferrier Point was too close, reports Lucy Nichols
On Monday evening, 150 people were forced to evacuate a tower block in Canning Town, East London after a fire broke out on the 12th floor. Firefighters from all over East London were able to get the Ferrier Point fire under control in less than two hours, and Ambulances arrived on scene quickly to treat residents. One resident was taken to hospital and five more were treated at the scene, though fortunately none of the other residents of the 23-storey tower block sustained any injuries.
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire just over three years ago, the sight of a tower block emitting smoke evokes an overwhelming sense of dread, as people recall the horrific images of a tower engulfed in flame. It is chilling that until fairly recently, Ferrier Point – owned by Newham Council – had the same kind of cladding as Grenfell, installed by the same company. In the weeks after Grenfell, Ferrier Point was one of three towers blocks in Newham found to have the dangerous ACM cladding - though it wasn’t until two years later that this cladding was finally removed.
There are a multitude of similarities between the Grenfell Tower and Ferrier Point. Other than them both being tower blocks with, until recently, the same kind of cladding, they are both working class enclaves next to massively wealthy parts of London.
Though Canning Town has always been a very working class area, it is sandwiched between Canary Wharf and the recently regenerated Stratford, home to the fantastically expensive E20 postcode. Unlike Kensington and Chelsea, Newham is the poorest borough in London, and one of the poorest boroughs in the country. Like every other borough in London, it has been hit especially hard by austerity, and emergency services in the area have been cut dramatically over the last decade (though it is still very heavily policed).
Newham Council’s 2018 decision to remove the ACM cladding from Ferrier Point has saved lives, though it does highlight the fact that this cladding should never have been installed on the tower in the first place, or should have been removed a lot sooner than 2019.
Thousands of people around the country are still living in homes surrounded by ACM cladding, or similarly dangerous kinds of cheap cladding. We are now more than three years on from the tragic Grenfell fire, which has changed British society in the same way as Hillsborough did. It has brought about a new awareness to the dangers of deregulation and privatisation, and has again proved that the British state does not care about working class lives. The government has done the bare minimum in making working peoples’ homes safe, it is therefore somewhat miraculous that loss of life was avoided in Canning Town on Monday Evening.
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