The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has confirmed it will not allow Grenfell Tower and its surroundings to be returned to the council that owns it when police investigations into the tragedy that claimed 72 lives are complete.
In a statement, the department said the Metropolitan Police was on course to release the charred tower block and its environs as a crime scene later this month but that it – rather than landowner the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea – would take responsibility for the site.
The council has been the subject of strong criticism over the oversight of its housing stock which was operated by a tenant management organisation, and in particular the recent multimillion pound refurbishment of the 1970s block that was widely believed to have contributed to the spread of last year’s fire.
The latest announcement on the future of the tragedy site is a reputational blow for Kensington & Chelsea council, which was often cited as an exemplar local authority during the coalition government years.
MHCLG said a formal agreement would be “finalised in the autumn” that would that would ensure Kensington & Chelsea Council took no role in the management of the site or decision-making about its future.
The department said once the Met had released the site the government would “make operational decisions, such as on the site’s safety, security and access arrangements, until the future of the site has been determined by the community”.
It added: “As these arrangements are put in place, the site will continue to be managed by the independent site management team who have been in place since July 2017.”
That team is led by Doug Patterson, chief executive of the London Borough of Bromley. It is responsible for all aspects of the on-going day-to-day management, such as health and safety and security.
The long-term plan for the Grenfell Tower site is for it to be transferred to a yet-to-be-established body represented by survivors of the tragedy and the bereaved.
MHCLG stressed that no decision had been taken on a future use for the Grenfell Tower site, but expects a “fitting memorial” to be created.
A selection of architects are working with community groups to develop proposals for the refurbishment of the wider Lancaster West Estate, of which Grenfell was the focal block.