Politicians and professionals must be responsible and forensic in seeking the truth

Steve Douglas

The Grenfell Tower tragedy will change the housing policy agenda for years to come. This much is certain. There is universal agreement that it must never happen again. And no one who saw the tower ablaze on that fateful night, or who has seen the hollowed-out husk of what remains of the building can but feel a sense of anger and deep sadness for the many who lost families, relatives and friends – and for a community that will have been changed forever.

There is an understandable demand for answers and for someone to blame. And for those answers to come as soon as possible.

There is also an insistence for those who made the decisions to be called to account. Beyond this, the review must seek to understand not just the cause of the fire and the decision-making that may have contributed to it happening, but also the circumstances that may have played a part in the scale and ferocity of the fire that night.

It is important that the urgency for answers does not see the truth get lost in the clamour to draw immediate conclusions

It is tough to ask, but the review must be independent, fearless, measured and searching. The answers for the cause, both direct and contributory, are almost certainly going to be complex. They will certainly have consequences for building regulations; for tower blocks and their management – whether public or private, residential or commercial – and for the future handling of such fires.

At such a time, politicians and professionals must be responsible in seeking the truth, considered in their response and forensic in their analysis before reaching conclusions.

My experience is that the pendulum of housing policy swings at pace depending upon the urgency of a set of circumstances. The Grenfell tragedy reminds us all that health and safety, and the quality of homes, matter as much as the number of homes that we build. The social housing regulator has already taken a sensible and considered approach in reminding all affordable housing providers of its responsibilities.

It is important that the urgency for answers does not see the truth get lost in the clamour to draw immediate conclusions.

A review of building regulations must be an important start. The chain of questions, though, will need to be deep and thorough and seeking to find solutions. It will require a commitment from all, including government and the industry itself. Once we know the answers, collectively we must ensure something like this never happens again.

Steve Douglas is a partner at Altair