Apartment Complex Fire Exposes The Troubling Inequalities Dividing London’s Wealthy Borough

Walk ten minutes from the burnt out site of the Grenfell Tower block, still smoldering nearly two days after the blaze that devastated the 24-storey building, and you will find yourself in a completely different world. BMWs, Jaguars and Audis are parked along the tree-lined streets of Clarendon Road, Blenheim Crescent and Elgin Crescent. The four story town houses are freshly painted and builders are carrying out extensive renovation works on some of the multi-million pound properties.

Walk through the footpath that connects nearby Walmer Road and Clarendon Road and you will see a completely different aftermath to the horror wrought on Monday night. On Walmer Road, crowds of volunteers and donations block the road near the Rugby Portobello Trust centre, yet on the road that runs parallel, it is calm and quiet – two worlds, living side by side.

The tale of Grenfell Tower is a tale of two Kensingtons. It is the story of how scores of people were left to perish in what is being described as a block riddled with fire and safety problems and disrepair, just metres away from some of the wealthiest streets in the country.

Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
A train drives past Grenfall tower, as it continues to smoulder on June 15, 2017 in London, England.

[Visually] theres no comparison, youve got a Rolls Royce to your right and the slum to the left. Its not a good contrast. Theres half a road separating the wealth and the poverty, James Sheridan tells HuffPost UK.

Sheridan, a 28-year-old chef who works in the area, is one of hundreds of people volunteering his time for the relief effort.

Data shows how the towers residents were surrounded by inequality, with marked differences in their income, employment and life expectancy when compared to those living just metres away.

A patchwork map of inequality shows the area immediately around the building, in the wealthy borough of Kensington and Chelsea, to be among the most deprived in the whole of England in 2015.

On measures including levels of income, deprivation, and barriers to housing and services, people living in Grenfell Tower and its immediate surroundings had worse prospects than those living just eight minutes walk away.

On one side you have all the rich people and their houses are being developed and on the other side you have the social housing which hasnt been developed for a long time,Azar Hussain, who lives nearby Grenfell Tower and knows people missing inside, tells HuffPost UK.

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The map, above, shows Grenfells locality, highlighted, as being dark red – indicating the most deprivation. Meanwhile neighbourhoods just streets away are marked blue – indicating areas that are the least deprived.

The data was drawn from the Governments English Indices of Deprivation 2015 and compiled into a coloured map by coder James Trimble.

The view, below, shows the coloured map approximately overlaid onto an aerial view of Grenfell Tower – revealing the stark contrasts of inequality in between the north of the borough and elsewhere.

From dark red most deprived to light blue least deprived residents of Grenfell Tower was surrounded by inequality.

And the 2015 data also reveals Grenfell Tower and its surrounding area was:

  • In the most deprived 20% of areas in England for employment and living environment
  • In the most deprived 30% for health deprivation and disability
  • In the most deprived 40% for crime

Yet the nearby Notting Hill area, just a eight minutes walk from Grenfell, was found to be:

  • In the least deprived 10% of areas in England for education, skills and training
  • In the least deprived 10% for health deprivation and disability
  • In the least deprived 20% for employment

The area immediately around Grenfell Tower was in the worst ten percent for measures including deprivation income and barriers to housing and services.

An area just eight minutes walk from Grenfell Tower has markedly different ratings according to the data.

Local residents and workers say there is a physical, as well as financial, divide in the area, with the Lancaster West Estate encapsulated by metal gating.

I do feel that poor people have been gated off from the wealthier side, local chef Sheridan says. Its clearly there in black and white that they are living in a different world to us.

He says the two living situations are like chalk and cheese.

HuffPost UK
James Sheridan says the rich and poor are living in different worlds

While properties in Kensington and Chelsea go for, on average, for 1.4m, flats in Grenfell Tower have been marketedfor 250,000 in recent years.

There is a divide between the rich and poor, market researcher Hussain adds. You have the social housing on the one side and on the other side you have the private residential housing. So you can see the contrast in the people, because the people in the social housing, they are just about living. Theyre struggling a lot.

Inequality was the top of newly-elected local Labour MP Emma Dent Coads agenda upon her shock victory last week.

Dent Coad told the Guardianbefore the tragedy: We have areas of extreme poverty. People are getting poorer, their income is dropping, life expectancy is dropping and their health is getting worse…. there is no trickle down anywhere in Kensington.

One resident, who only wants to be identified as Kim, says she is happy the borough finally has a Labour MP, as previous Tory MPs werealways for the rich people.

The Lancaster West Estate resident says the buildings are infested with leaks, damp, cockroaches and ants.

She explains: We live on a council estate, we dont live on a private residence, adding: They [the council] dont care about you.

HuffPost UK
Local resident Kim says previous Tory MPs have ‘always been for the rich’.

And explaining why stark contrasts between streets exist,Mubin Haq, director of policy at Trust for London tells HuffPost UK: Weve seen in places like Kensington and Chelsea that the middle has been squeezed out so youre left with the poor and the rich and that explains the extremes you find there.

We have areas of extreme poverty Emma Dent Coad, Labour MP for Kensington

Generally people are living in more overcrowded conditions if you are poorer, and they dont have the same access to potential services like good medical facilities. Its too early to tell the reasons behind whats happened but the lives people are leading are quite different for poorer people living in London.

When you see the real stark differences I think there is a question over looking at your own life and trying to figure out why do I not have the same access to resources as some of these other people. It must be very tough for people living beside those types of extremes. We definitely have that in Kensington.

There is research into the impact this has on mental health and wellbeing. Children wont go to the same schools.

Residents have vented their anger at inequality in the area in the aftermath of Wednesdays fire, with one local suggesting regeneration of the area had simply contained those who live there.

A resident told HuffPost UK on Wednesday: You cant apply to Holland Park [School] anymore, you cant apply to wherever any more, so its contained. Ethnic cleansing and social cleansing, bottom line, full stop, in my opinion.

People are living in more overcrowded conditions if you are poorer Mubin Haq, Trust for London

She added:Thats what it is. It all comes down to money. Were all in Kensington and Chelsea, we cant get away from that.

Akala, an award-winning artist who lives nearby,told Channel 4 News: The people who died and lost their homes this happened to them because they are poor. We are in one of the richest spaces, not just in London but in the world. Repeated requests were ignored.

There is no way that rich people would live in that building without adequate fire safety. Everyone Ive spoken to has said they couldnt hear alarms, there was no sprinkler system.

Journalist Skyler Baker-Jordan addedin a blog on HuffPost UK today:The fact is, Grenfell Tower – from the residents years of documented complaints about safety to the fact is lies in the richest borough in London – is a stark reminder of whose voices get listened to in modern Britain, whose dont, and that this dichotomy can have deadly consequences.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/london-apartment-fire-rich-poor_us_5942e769e4b06bb7d271dabb

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