A group of more than 900 bereaved family members, survivors and local residents whose lives have been devastated by the Grenfell Tower fire have agreed a settlement of their civil claims arising from the blaze.
The fire at the residential tower block in North Kensington, west London, in June 2017 killed 72 people and led to a long-running public inquiry, chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick, which is looking into the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the blaze.
Cladding giant Arconic was among the firms to have agreed to the settlement in the legal action, which was also brought against insulation manufacturers, contractors, architects, the local council and its tenancy management company.
Arconic said it had “agreed to contribute to a restorative justice project to benefit the community affected by the fire”.
The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) was the organisation appointed by the local council to run its entire housing stock.
A spokesman said a monetary settlement “won’t mitigate for the loss and trauma”, but welcomed the settlement as a step towards justice for those involved.
Law firms representing those who took part in the legal claim have stressed the agreement does not impact the public inquiry, which has yet to publish its report, or the potential for any criminal charges to be brought in the future.
In a statement, the firms said: “The settlement is completely independent of, and has no impact upon, the ongoing Public Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower Fire which is due to publish its report in 2023, or the ongoing criminal investigation where it is anticipated that the Crown Prosecution Service will make a decision on whether to pursue criminal charges against those responsible for the fire after publication of the final Grenfell Tower Inquiry report.”
“In those respects, the BSRs’ (bereaved family members, survivors and local residents) fight for justice continues.
“Finally, it should be recognised that no amount of damages could ever be sufficient to properly compensate those affected by the fire.”
The settlement does not include all victims of the fire.
The amount of compensation the 900 claimants are to received is to be shared out “according to their own specific circumstances”, the lawyers said.
In closing submissions to the inquiry in November, lead counsel Richard Millett KC accused firms of a “merry-go-round of buck-passing” in order to protect their own interests.
The “spider’s web of blame” created by the refusal of core participants to accept responsibility will make the task of the panel – which must examine the circumstances that led to the deaths – even harder, Mr Millett said.
Mr Millett highlighted a number of issues at play in the build-up to the tragedy, including poor regulation, inadequate legislation, the influence of commercial interests and “the failure to pay due respect to the idea of ‘home’ as a physical aspect of human privacy, agency, safety and dignity”.
Reynobond PE is a type of ACM cladding that has been largely blamed for the lethal intensity and rapid spread of fire at Grenfell Tower.
Many of the organisations involved with the Grenfell Tower project have failed to accept blame for their role in the events prior to the disaster, showing a “lack of respect” for the victims and their families, the inquiry heard.
A spokesman for Arconic said: “Arconic confirms that it is a party to the full and final settlement in connection with a large majority of the claims relating to the Grenfell Tower fire in the High Court brought by survivors and estates of decedents.
“Arconic also agreed to contribute to a restorative justice project to benefit the community affected by the fire.
“Arconic continues to express its deepest sympathy to the Grenfell residents and their families, and appreciates the importance of this milestone for providing a resolution that lessens the delay and stress to claimants that would result from protracted legal proceedings.”
In a statement, the KCTMO said: “We are pleased to see that a settlement has been reached for the majority of the bereaved survivors and residents.
“We recognise that a monetary settlement won’t mitigate for the loss and trauma, but both the settlement and the restorative justice process is a welcome step forward. Our deepest sympathies remain with all those impacted by this tragedy.”
Additional reporting by Press Association