The Inquiry has written to core participants on the arrangements for the hearing venue.
The Inquiry has always aimed to make the venue as accessible as possible. Working with a professional booking firm to find a full-time venue for the Inquiry, the initial search was in the immediate vicinity of Grenfell Tower and then working outwards from there. The Inquiry has researched a considerable number of locations and looked seriously at all suggestions which have been made.
The Inquiry’s requirements are extensive: it needs a sufficiently large hearing room and a number of additional rooms of various sizes. It needs the ability to install the permanent infrastructure required for the technology to support the Inquiry, which can mean altering the internal fabric of the building. The use of the hearing room is also needed seven days a week, because it would not be possible to remove all the infrastructure at weekends. Holborn Bars was the closest venue that adequately met these requirements.
For the purposes of the proceedings, the Inquiry has installed a dedicated hearing room in Holborn Bars, including the provision of IT, cabling and security measures. The Inquiry has access to the space for as long as is needed. Even if another suitable venue were now to become available, to move the Inquiry's main hearings in the near-term would be disruptive. The most important immediate objectives are to maintain the momentum of the Inquiry in order to make initial findings as soon as possible and, in particular, to put forward any urgent recommendations concerning public safety, as well as providing full ongoing support to core participants.
As part of that support, the Inquiry has made Holborn Bars as accessible and accommodating as possible. Holborn Bars provides, all on the same floor and in the same area, a hearing room, a large viewing annex, a private viewing room and a separate quiet room for the bereaved, survivors and residents, a counselling room, a prayer room and two witness waiting rooms. The Inquiry pays a daily travel and subsistence allowance to the bereaved, survivor and resident core participants attending the hearings at Holborn Bars and will consider additional necessary expenses for those with additional mobility needs on a case-by-case basis.
Where the Inquiry does not need the full facilities for our work, or the same degree of permanence, the local area will continue to be the preferred location. We held consultation meetings on our terms of reference, drop-in sessions and the Commemoration Hearings themselves in Kensington and Chelsea. We live-stream all Inquiry hearings to the Notting Hill Methodist Church and will maintain this active presence in the borough.
In response to feedback following the first week of opening statements, the Inquiry has moved the public seating further forward in the main hearing room, improved the lighting and improved the screen positioning for the presentation of evidence. The Inquiry continues to welcomes suggestions on how the venue can be further improved.