A Tory donor’s private equity firm was a major investor in the construction company accused of saving £5,000 by fitting cheaper and more flammable cladding to Grenfell Tower.

Mayfair-based Coller Capital owned a fifth of Rydon Construction via a partnership based offshore in Jersey when the building firm started work on the £10million refurbishment at Grenfell Tower in 2014.

Cladding manufacturer Omnis yesterday confirmed that it had supplied cheaper aluminium composite material to the project that cost £2 per square metre less than the more expensive but more fire resistant option.

Scotland Yard yesterday confirmed it had launched a criminal investigation into the blaze which has killed at least 30, with another 70 believed missing.

The inferno which engulfed the 24-storey council block is being blamed on a type of cladding which is banned on high-rise buildings in the US and Germany.

At least 30 people have died and 70 are believed missing following the blaze (Photo: SWNS.com)

It emerged yesterday that 20 tower blocks in London have been fitted with similar cladding by the same sub-contractor, Harleys Facades.

Harleys was hired by Rydons as a sub-contractor to install the cladding, which is used to insulate older buildings and make them more attractive to onlookers.

Private equity firm Coller bought a stake in Rydons in 2010 as part of a £332 million deal with Lloyds.

It became the major 70% partner in Jersey-based Cavendish Square Partners, which in turn owned a 30% stake in Rydon Holdings, the parent company of Rydon Construction.

Last year was a bumper year for Rydon, which saw profits leap nearly 40% to £10.3m and a payout of £8.4m to shareholders, research by CorporateWatch has found.

Rydon bought back the shares owned by Cavendish for £6.2m in December 2015. It is believed that more than £4 million of this went to Coller Capital.

The materials used in the Grenfell Tower refurbishment

A spokeswoman for Coller said: “Coller was a minority shareholder in Rydon until 2015 and had no operational control.”

Rydon has insisted the work “met all required building control, fire regulation and health & safety standards”.

Coller boss and founder Jeremy Coller donated £15,000 to the Conservative Party in July 2015.

Senior Tories are facing criticism for delaying promises to carry out a review of fire regulations following a fatal fire in 2009 which killed six people.

Former housing minister Gavin Barwell, now Prime Minister Theresa May’s newly-appointed chief of staff, is accused of delaying an overhaul of fire safety regulations following a 2009 blaze in Lakanal House, Southwark, which killed six people, including three children.

Mr Barwell told the Commons in October that part B of the building regulations, which cover fire safety, would be reviewed following the tragedy but his department has not published any review.

Concerns about external cladding and fires date back to at least 1999, when a blaze tore through a 14-storey block of flats in Irvine, Ayrshire, killing an elderly man.

A Parliamentary report but the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee in 2000 stated: “We believe that all external cladding systems should be required either to be entirely non-combustible, or to be proven through full-scale testing not to pose an unacceptable level of risk in terms of fire spread.”

There is currently no requirement for exterior cladding on high-rise buildings to be non-combustible.

It is thought there may be 30,000 buildings in the UK fitted with cladding similar to that on Grenfell Tower.

Theresa May has been heavily criticised for her response to the tragedy (Photo: Daily Mirror)

Yesterday, John Cowley, director of Omnis Exteriors manufactured the aluminium composite material (ACM) used in the cladding, confirmed that it had supplied Reynobond PE cladding. This is £2 cheaper per square metre than the alternative Reynobond FR – which stands for “fire resistant” – to the companies that worked on refurbishing Grenfell Tower.

Mr Cowley said: “We supplied components for a system created by the design and build team on that project.”

Harley Facades, the company that fitted the panels to Grenfell Tower, has said in a statement: “At this time, we are not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower.”

At least 20 more London tower blocks owned by councils and housing associations – which range in height from 11 to 23 storeys – have all been retrofitted with the cladding by Harley Facades.

Plastic-filled cladding, such as Reynobond PE, has been banned in Germany towers more than 22 metres high since the 1980s. It has been banned in the US on buildings more than 12m high since 2012.

  • 06:00, 17 JUN 2017