Above Ground on the London Underground: A half a mile & a world away from Grenfell Towers

What a difference a few blocks make.

Another heartbreaking week for England, and Londoners in particular. Watching BBC World News while the 24 story Grenfell apartment building went up in flames was horrifying. Thinking about all the people, families with children fast asleep in their beds as the fire consumed the tower, floor by floor, heart-wrenching for all. Reading the tweets put out by a hateful few, immediately blaming terrorists, was sickening, disturbing and depressing. 

Elgin Crescent is just a few blocks away from Grenfell Tower

As I prepare this post, there are 30 confirmed deaths and many, many people still missing. The death toll will surely rise—some say as high as 100—but it's clear the cause is not terrorism, but negligence on the part of the council's building management that is to blame. The building, situated in an otherwise fairly affluent area, is council housing, flats allocated for the unemployed and underemployed. 


Nehru, India's 1st prime minister lived here in 1910 & 1912

 A very different world from the nearby Nottinghill and the tony Elgin Crescent which my husband and I visited on a trip to the Portobello Road market. I fell in love with the handsome row houses, pristine and perfectly maintained.

An Elgin Crescent row home getting a fresh coat of paint.

Elgin Crescent is an especially lovely street. Many of the houses are painted in pretty pastels and I found myself thinking, ooh, I could live here! Except I couldn't. A quick look online revealed a one bedroom loft flat for sale for £1,100,000! 


Pretty in Pink ... but it needs a touch up too.

It's a touch unsettling to know that just a few blocks away—less than half a mile—there was a very different kind of housing, catering to people of very different means than those who can afford Elgin Crescent. In Elgin Crescent, homes are maintained, cared for, kept up. They mostly get painted when they need to be painted. Tragically, at Grenfell, maintenance, left to the council, appears not to have been as high a priority.

The Zoopla estimate on this home is £4,989,000  GULP!

The main reason a kitchen fire on the fourth floor blazed so fast and furious is because the cladding used on the building is a material that has been banned in the US for failing to meet safety standards. It wasn't fire resistant! Fire resistant cladding would have cost more! Can you imagine making that kind of cost cutting decision gambling whether the building would go up in flames? Compounding that is the complaint that there weren't enough sprinklers on the floors and/or in the flats themselves, the alarms either didn't go off properly or weren't loud enough to wake many residents until it was too late.


 A safe place to live shouldn't have to cost a fortune.

Simply a horrible catastrophe that could have been easily prevented. The Queen has visited, the Prime Minister has called for an investigation and Scotland Yard is now doing exactly that. The council has already indicated they won't be using that material again; but for those who lost their lives in the blaze, and the friends and loved ones they left behind, that is far too little, and far too late.


Ironically residents of both the posh Elgin Crescent and Grenfell Tower would likely have used the same Underground Station. The Latimer Road Station.


Here's how to get there:



Connect with fellow Anglophiles at Joy Weese Moll's 

Comments

  1. This fire is horrible and heartbreaking - beyond words, really. London, like most big cities, is a place of contrasts. And, to be fair, it is too soon to say exactly what caused this horrendous fire and, probably more importantly, what caused it to spread so quickly. Every expert I have heard says it was unprecedented in their experience. Maybe it was the local authority, maybe it was the contractor, maybe it was the product, maybe all three. The building was constructed in the early 70s. There was no sprinkler system - it is not mandatory to retro-fit them in older premises in the UK, though it is mandatory that they are fitted in new ones over a certain height. Sprinklers wouldn't have stopped the fire spreading. I'm pretty disgusted that there are some who are trying to make political capital out of this, while people are suffering and before we know the facts. Actually, I think TM and the government's reaction has been too distant - they are reacting, but not obviously and they should have been all over this tragedy like a rash. But it is WRONG that this kind of thing can happen in 21st-century UK, one of the richest countries in the world. Terrorist attacks are bad enough - but this kind of thing shouldn't happen. Most importantly, if it turns out that someone has taken short cuts, they need the book throwing at them. Sorry, I've just realised I've been ranting - delete the comment if you like.

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    Replies
    1. I would never delete the comment especially as I think your ranting is very well placed. A frustrating world we're living in where we live with the benefits of modern technology and yet things like this can still happen. It all seems so stupid and so pointless. In the end, I wonder will anyone actually be held accountable and what measures will be taken to make sure something like this doesn't happen again. I gather, from what Michelle says, there are other bldgs with the same cladding issue. Hopefully retrofits are being ordered.

      Delete
  2. Affordable housing is such a difficult issue. Living in one of the most segregated municipal areas in the US, one of my fascinations with this story is what your photos show here -- how close the really fine houses are to the public housing. That's much less common in the St. Louis area. I can only think of one or two pockets. And, still, just because the housing is close, it doesn't seem to mean that the people are. I'm not sure how we get to the point where it feels like the minimum-wage cashier and the middle class shopper are in the same boat, because we really are. And, I fear that we're all in danger of sinking.

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    Replies
    1. You raise a really tough and poignant question, Joy. Somewhat like London, here in LA we have areas where pricey neighborhoods butt up against the less than but we don't have public housing—what little public housing we have—nearly as close. We seem to move in our own bubbles ignoring each other, politely stepping past and ignoring the fact, as you say, that we're really all in the same boat.

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  3. The latest information available is that the wrong type of plastic insulation was used behind the new overcladding. It should have been the fire resistant type in order to comply with the Building Regulations for tall buildings. Whether this was deliberately or accidentally used will be something for the enquiry to determine. It must be very worrying for people in similar blocks.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Michelle Ann, that's very worrying indeed. Hopefully the government is looking at any buildings that have the non-compliant overcladding and replacing it. A huge but mandatory effort, I would think.

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