August start to cover shell of gutted Grenfell Tower

Work to cover the charred remains of the Grenfell Tower is to begin next month, the site manager said.

Grenfell Tower

A devastating fire ripped through the 24-storey building in west London on June 14, killing at least 80 people.

The scorched husk of the building will be coated in a protective wrap from mid-August to help forensic investigations and ease the eventual deconstruction of the building which is due to take place “towards the end of 2018”.

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It comes as the Archbishop of York visits north Kensington on Thursday to attend a memorial for five residents of the tower, 24-year-old artist Khadija Saye, her mother Mary Mendy, 54, Berkti Haftom, 29, and her 12-year-old son Beruk and a five-year-old boy called Isaac.

The service at the St Helen’s Church will also be attended by Bishop of Kensington Graham Tomlin, and the Rev Femi Cole-Njie, representing the Gambian ambassador to the UK.

Michael Lockwood, who has been inside the building five times, told a public meeting on Wednesday evening he estimated that the recovery operation could last until mid-November, while the criminal investigation involving material being collected from the building could go on until January.

Speaking at the Notting Hill Methodist Church, he said: “I think that to be honest, the building will stay up throughout 2018.

“Then towards the end of 2018, I think we could start to bring it down, if that is what the community wants, and the scaffolding will help us to do that because we can do that within the wrap.”

Any decision on what happens to the site after the eventual deconstruction would be made with input from the community, Mr Lockwood said.

He added there were some flats in the doomed building that were “completely untouched and in perfect condition and there are some that are absolutely devastated”.

There are around 33 flats from which personal possessions might now be retrieved. After the meeting, Mr Lockwood said that efforts to get those items back might begin “in the next week or so”.

He said it would happen “in consultation with those residents, and at the speed that they want, but we would like to get some of those possessions back to them”.

Mr Lockwood said: “What we have to be mindful of is that we do that with the sensitivity that further up the building, we are still recovering possessions and remains.”

He pointed out, with the ongoing work moving through the building, that “if we don’t do it soon, we will lose those possessions”.

Meanwhile, communities secretary Sajid Javid wrote a letter read out at the public meeting in which he said the taskforce assembled in the wake of the disaster will be in place for “however long is necessary”.

He wrote: “I envisage them to be in place for however long is necessary to get the job done - in reality, this is likely to mean for at least one year.”

The outside experts were assembled following outrage over the response to the disaster and took over responsibility for Kensington and Chelsea Council’s housing, regeneration, community engagement and governance services.