We know it wasn’t the iceberg, it was the lack of lifeboats that was the flaw. Now Tuesday night’s tragic fire in Kensington is just the latest reminder of the issues cities like London still face in 21st century. Fire prevention and evacuation technologies are improving all the time and can be employed to reduce the risk to property and life, but many are forsaken, as the Grenfell fire sadly reminds us – 24 floors, one stairway. Why, given the heart-breaking outcomes, is everything possible not done to reduce the risks?
One answer comes from the telling story of an amendment to the 2016 housing and planning bill that would have tried to ensure that all accommodation was safe for people to live in, but which was defeated by 312 votes to 219 because it would add “unnecessary regulation and cost to landlords.” Other anecdotes from the commercial space support the idea that cost is a barrier: where landlords have the option to reduce risks, if they think it would be too expensive, or that they could not pass on all that cost to their tenants, then the idea is a non-starter.