Relatives of Grenfell victims have slammed the government considering plans to take the building down as “erasing the memory of those lost”, accusing ministers of putting people through “unimaginable trauma”.
Instead, a group representing family members of those who died in the blaze have put forward plans to turn the tower into a “vertical forest”, The Guardian has reported.
Under the proposals, the 24-storey building in west London would be covered with 72 species of plants, one for every person died in the 2017 fire.
Meetings between government officials and relatives of the victims showed strong opposition to the proposals, with some relatives threatening legal action against potential attempts to pull the tower down.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said it received independent advice to demolish Grenfell from structural engineers, because of the condition of the tower.
The move has prompted relatives to consider commissioning an independent assessment, because of a lack of trust in the government.
The Grenfell Next of Kin, a group representing 29 victims, including 11 of the children who died, said no attempt had been made to share or release the structural advice. But MHCLG said it has engaged with the community and will continue to do so – and that it did share the advice.
Hisam Choucair, who lost six members of his family in the fire, said: “A tragedy has taken place that must never be forgotten at this location.
“If they take it down, they will obliterate that memory and they would be putting people through another unimaginable trauma. The ashes of our loved ones are in the fabric of that building.
He added that many families would support the building being transformed into some kind of living monument: “It could change the whole landscape and complexion of London. It would cease to be a site of tragedy but full of hope and alive again.”
Vertical forest by Stefano Boeri Architect, is a model for a sustainable residential building, the first example of the Vertical Forest consisting of two residential towers of 110 and 76 m height, was realized in the centre of Milan pic.twitter.com/vT7vlH9bch— Ken Rutkowski (@kenradio) May 27, 2019
The idea to convert Grenfell into one comes from a former resident who lost a child in the fire.
A statement from the Lancaster West Residents Association said: “This building is a monument to all the people who died and if it’s a possibility to save it and to transform it into something living then that would be good and something we’d like to explore with our residents to have a real say. We’d like the government to look at every possibility.”
Shahrokh Aghlani, who lost his mother and his aunt in the blaze, added: “We want an independent structural report by somebody that we appoint. We think this letter is testing the waters about demolishing the tower.”
Massood Shahabedin, next of kin for victim Hamid Kani, said: ‘The remaining site stands as a burial ground to our fallen loved ones and the demolition would simply be an attempt to erase this memory.”
An MHCLG spokesperson said: “We know how important and sensitive this decision is and no final decision has been taken.
“Following important independent safety advice from structural engineers, we are engaging closely with the community as we consider the evidence and what the future of the Grenfell Tower should be.
“We have now published this advice to ensure those most affected have access to the information that will inform a decision on the Tower, before one is reached.”