A FIRE expert carried out her report into the Grenfell Tower without visiting the site herself.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry heard on Monday that the report included a 'number of assumptions'.

Cate Cooney, a consultant at fire engineers Exova, based in Howley, told the inquiry she carried out a fire strategy report for Grenfell Tower in 2012 in its pre-refurbishment state without visiting the site itself.

She said she carried out her report from Warrington, based on microfiche drawings despite them being of "very poor" quality, and also relied on information from a colleague who visited the 24-storey west London block.

Ms Cooney's draft 2012 report - which was not updated - contained a number of assumptions, including that Grenfell Tower had been built to the "prevailing standards of the day", the inquiry heard.

In a section marked "evacuation principles", she wrote: "Due to an assumed high degree of compartmentation and therefore a low probability of fire spread beyond the dwelling of fire origin, simultaneous evacuation of the building is unlikely to be considered necessary."

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She also noted the existing smoke ventilation system was "unsatisfactory from a modern perspective" and should be "assessed in order to ensure that a satisfactory level of safety is provided to residents", noting that ventilation was critical to the stay-put policy.

Asked by the inquiry's chief lawyer Richard Millett QC why she did not explicitly advise that the ventilation system should be completely replaced and updated, she replied: "I think it's clear in that paragraph that it needs to be assessed to make sure it meets a satisfactory level of performance.

"I don't think it's not clear."

Despite not being directly involved in the refurbishment, Ms Cooney said in emails that some of the proposed alterations would be "making an existing crap condition worse" and that some proposals could be "massaged" to help them satisfy building regulations, the inquiry heard.

She noted in the emails that there were approval risks to the revamp regarding both firefighting shafts and on means of escape in the event of a fire.

Ms Cooney said in her witness statement: "My reference to 'massaging' the proposals was to recommending changes to the proposals I had seen regarding the refurbishment to make them satisfactory from a building regulations perspective.

"The proposals I was referring to were the alterations to the lower four floors, which involved creating new residential accommodation on floors where there had previously been no such accommodation, and changing layouts."

Meanwhile the inquiry is considering shutting out most lawyers and the public, after one of its panel members fell ill with symptoms similar to coronavirus.

Architect and health and safety expert Thouria Istephan became unwell over the weekend, but it is "too early to know" whether she has contracted the virus, the inquiry heard on Monday.

After being invited to "pause for reflection" on how proceedings should move forward, the inquiry's 73-year-old chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said he was giving "serious consideration" to strictly limiting attendance.

He said it would allow interested parties to review evidence and documents online, and follow proceedings on a live video stream.

The inquiry could continue to question witnesses while "excluding from the room those whose presence is not strictly necessary", Sir Martin added, saying he would make a decision on the matter later after hearing submissions.

The retired appeal court judge added light-heartedly: "It won't come as a surprise to any of you that at least two people in this room might not be able to be here if the Government decides that over-70s should be banned from going out.

"Mr Mansfield and I certainly fall into that category."