Two campaigners have won permission from the high court to challenge the government’s refusal to ensure that all disabled people can safely evacuate from high-rise blocks of flats in emergencies.
Georgie Hulme and Sarah Rennie, co-founders of the disabled-led leaseholder action group Claddag and both of them wheelchair-users who live in high-rise buildings, have been told they can apply for a judicial review of the decision made by former home secretary Priti Patel.
Patel rejected the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s recommendation that all owners and managers of high-rise residential buildings should be forced to prepare a personal emergency evacuation plan (PEEP) for all residents who might find it difficult to “self-evacuate”.
That rejection – on the grounds of “practicality”, “proportionality” and “safety” – came despite a promise from prime minister Boris Johnson that he would implement all the recommendations from the inquiry’s first phase.
Hulme and Rennie have now been granted permission to seek a judicial review of the decision and have been told they have an “arguable” case.
It is hoped the court will hear their legal challenge by the end of the year.
The judge who heard their application has also agreed to cap their costs, so if they lose their case they will have to pay a maximum of £20,000 towards Home Office costs, as well as court fees that are likely to be no more than £1,500.
Claddag has so far raised nearly £16,000 through a crowdfunding appeal, but still needs to raise about another £5,500 to continue with the case.
Claddag’s solicitors, Bhatt Murphy, are working on a “no win no fee” basis, and if Rennie and Hulme are successful with their case, all the unused donations will be returned.
Hulme told Disability News Service:
“Whilst the permission for a hearing is great news, the fact that the government needs to be held to account in this way is sadly another example of how it considers disabled, deaf and older people’s lives as less worthy.
“We appreciate the devastating impacts of both the cost of living and the building safety crises, but any small donation will help us, as a community, to get our day in court.”
The government’s rejection of the PEEPs recommendation came even though those who responded to a consultation on the proposal overwhelmingly supported their introduction.