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Council defends decision to hire firm linked to Grenfell disaster

Maidstone council has defended its choice of Rydon Construction as the developer of its planned innovation centre at the Maidstone Medical Campus.

Rydon was the lead company in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower in West London before the blaze in June 2017 which resulted in one of the worst peace-time disasters with 72 deaths and 70 people injured.

Grenfell Tower on fire in 2017
Grenfell Tower on fire in 2017

A public inquiry to determine the cause of the fire is due to resume soon, but in November last year, the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the contractor “should not bid for further public work” until investigations into the fire had been completed.

He said the company should "refrain" from bidding for work “until we know the truth” - but he did not go as far as to impose a ban.

A council spokesman said: "Maidstone selected Rydon Construction as its preferred contractor for the Innovation Centre Project via a full OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) procurement process, in accordance with public procurement regulations.

"The tenders for a three-to-four storey building for business use only, were evaluated against quality and price criteria (40% cost and 60% quality).

"The council also sought bank references from Rydon and held a post-tender meeting with their managing director to gain assurances given the context."

Artist's impression of the proposed Innovation Centre at Kent Medical Campus
Artist's impression of the proposed Innovation Centre at Kent Medical Campus

The council continued: "Maidstone council will ensure that Rydon employs a suitably qualified organisation to ensure full compliance with current building regulations, as it does with all its contractors."

The council further pointed out that it had begun its procurement process in April 2019, and had chosen Rydon as the preferred bidder in October 2019 - a month before the Housing Secretary's remarks, which it said were made in the context "of high-rise residential buildings."

Despite protests from Grenfell United, the residents group representing victims and survivors of the fire, Rydon remains on the Government's list of approved contractors for high-rise housing projects.

The Maidstone Innovation Centre will provide 37,000 sq ft of flexible office space, meeting and conference facilities for small and medium-sized enterprises working in the life science, healthcare and medical technology areas. It is scheduled for completion in 2021.

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