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Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission to Begin Work

An independent, community-led Commission is to begin work deciding on a memorial to commemorate the 72 lives lost in the Grenfell Tower fire on the 14th June 2017. The chosen co-chairs for this Commission are Thelma Stober and Michael Lockwood.

Grenfell Tower and a Memorial Ribbon

Thelma Stober is a survivor of the 7/7 terror attacks. She was badly injured in the 2005 attack at Aldgate and will co-chair the Commission along with Lockwood, a senior civil servant who helped lead the government’s recovery and community engagement following the Grenfell disaster. Their role is to develop a proposal for a fitting memorial to remember those lost in the fire.

The Commission

Aside from the chairs, the Commission is made up of ten community representatives. Five are the bereaved, three are former residents of Grenfell who lost their homes, and two are residents of Lancaster West estate. It is believed this composition is representative of the community, but with the bereaved having the majority say.

Representatives were selected by bereaved families, survivors and local residents. The Commission will gather views and opinions from the local North Kensington community to help develop a proposal for the memorial. These findings will then be published when the work is complete.

Should Grenfell Be Demolished?

Even in these early stages, there are disputes within the community as to when to demolish the building. Some believe it is a traumatic reminder that should be torn down from in the skyline, whereas others believe it is a symbol of the ongoing struggle the community face, and that it should only be demolished when justice is done.

What Should Replace Grenfell?

The question of what should replace the tower is a divisive one. There have been suggestions of a memorial garden, while a freelance proposal by a firm of architects has proposed encasing the burnt-out shell of the tower in a windowless black concrete sarcophagus, inciting outrage from the area’s then MP Emma Dent Coad.

The tower’s former owner and the government has said that the site will not be redeveloped if the community does not want it to be, but the building will likely be taken down. The nearest tube station, Latimer Road, is also likely to be renamed to commemorate Grenfell.

According to Stober and Lockwood, the role of the Commission is to ensure that the lives of those lost in the tragedy are commemorated and never forgotten. The views of the bereaved are being given the most weight in the discussions. The process is expected to take at least a year, although possibly longer to reach a consensus. Meanwhile, the public inquiry into the fire is on hold, and not due to be completed taking evidence until at least summer 2021.

Witnesses Granted Immunity

A recent development in the inquiry into the disaster is that individuals cooperating with the inquiry have been granted immunity from prosecution for any crimes they admit to. This comes after a three-week break in the investigation while the application for witness immunity was considered.

Certain individuals incriminated by early statements had asked for immunity from prosecution in exchange for continued cooperation with the inquiry. While the ruling means that the full facts of the case may more easily come to light, it was a blow to the Grenfell survivors and the bereaved families. Survivor’s group Grenfell United said it was a “sad day”.

The inquiry is looking into how the building became covered in flammable cladding during its refurbishment between 2012 and 2016. The attorney general of the case, Suella Braverman, stated that taking evidence from witnesses who would otherwise refuse to answer questions was paramount to finding the truth about the circumstances of the fire. But she insists that the undertaking will not jeopardise the police investigation or the prospect of criminal prosecution.

Inquiry chairman, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, said that the pledge would allow witnesses to provide a truthful account without fear, allowing him to make recommendations based on the fullest body of evidence possible. This proposed undertaking will cover oral evidence from individual witnesses only. The application for protections includes external wall subcontractor Harley Facades, main contractor Rydon, architects Studio E and window and cladding fitters Osborne Berry.

Grenfell United, however, believe that discovering the truth “must not come at the expense of justice and prosecutions”. They state they will not accept anything less than criminal prosecutions, that “Grenfell was a tragedy, but it was not an accident”.