Ross House not fire compliant since purchase for £1.8 million in April 2018

Updated: 08:21 5th Nov 2019

In Feb 2018, two months prior to purchasing Ross House, Folkestone, East Kent Audit Partnership slammed fire safety at East Kent Housing managed property.

Yesterday, two members of the team visited Ross House and spoke to some tradesmen on site. What they told them was horrifying.

Screenshot from 2019-09-07 02-44-15

Just thirteen days into Dr Susan Priest’s (pictured) tenure as Head of Paid Service of Folkestone & Hythe District Council, the Council purchased Ross House from Mullberry Tree Holdings Ltd, for £1.8 million. It was agreed by Cabinet, behind closed doors, to purchase Ross House in April 2017. Report Number C/16/120 states at 3.4 of the report:

  • Negotiations are also currently ongoing which would enable the Council to acquire a 16 unit development on completion. The project involves the conversion of a former commercial property to provide 16 one and two bedroom flats. The scheme is due to be completed by December 2017. It is proposed that the acquisition will be funded through S106 funding and the HRA. The proposals has been tested against and shown to fully meet the requirements of the Council’s HRA Business Plan. Details of the proposed acquisition are set out in confidential annex to this report for consideration by Cabinet.

In late Oct and early Nov 2019, according to candid and public statements made by Cllr Tim Prater, the conversion of Ross House, Ross Waywas total shit” and “sub standard.” But that is only part of the story.

Evidence is emerging that the sign off was not compliant with the Building Regs regarding fire safety which are covered in Approved Document Part B Volume 2

According to the tradesmen working on site, they informed our team members:

  • The building has a stay put policy in the event of fire, just like Grenfell.

  • The building has no compartmentation in the loft space, meaning in the event of a fire, smoke and fire could travel through the loft space.

  • There are no under floor fire barriers where necessary.

  • There are no smoke seals on the doors.

  • And to make matters worse there was no fire alarm through the building, though one is being fitted now as we understand.

But it is not just the tradesmen, a mother of a daughter who lives in the block has publicly stated:

Screenshot from 2019-11-05 08-18-15

Who in building control signed this building off?

Screenshot from 2019-11-02 08-57-53

Social Landlords (be they Local Authorities or Housing Associations) have a responsibility under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) to ensure that their properties and tenants are safe. The “responsible person” – Folkestone & Hythe District Council in this case – has a legal responsibility under the FSO and can be criminally prosecuted if they do not fulfil their duties. It is clear from the evidence they have NOT fulfilled their duties, and as such, we ask them to report themselves to the Health & Safety Executive and the Regulator of Social Housing.

Oliver Davis.v4

The Council paid Mr Oliver Davis (pictured) company Mulberry Tree £1.8 million for Ross House after he had done “significant level of works” that were “sub standard” and “total shit“. Whoever signed that building off, was possibly incompetent and/or negligent in their duty.

To add fuel to the fire, when Ross House was handed over to East Kent Housing to manage, nobody spotted the fact the doors had no fire seals, the loft had no fire barriers to compartmentalise it, there was no adequate fire alarm, and there were no under floor fire barriers where necessary. Is that because the contract administrator (EKH employee) had not undertaken any inspections of the property since the council purchased it in April 2018?

Both Folkestone & Hythe District Council and East Kent Housing have questions to answer for their failings like:

  • How did the Council come to pay £1.8 million for a building which was not fire compliant?

  • How come nobody noticed the building was not fire compliant? Nobody!

Placing tenants in a building which is NOT fire safe/compliant is negligent at least, incompetent at worse  Dr Priest. Both EKH and F&HDC abandoned their duties and are both responsible. They must both report themselves to the Regulator of Social Housing and the Health & Safety Executive. If they do not we will.

Finally, we note that the new board members of EKH have still not been added to EKH Ltd, as per the requirement of company law. We ask Deborah Upton Chief Exec of EKH and company secretary of EKH Ltd, when this will happen and when the accounts will be made available too, we’d like to know what your earned, while all this failure was going on.

The Shepwayvox Team

Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful

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3 Comments on Ross House not fire compliant since purchase for £1.8 million in April 2018

  1. Please stop making postings such as this – its making me depressed as a rate payer in Folkestone! – PS whats the latest on the office block in Ashford – £18m . There is only a return in investment if its let and it looks 90% empty after 1 year?

  2. doggerbank56 // November 5, 2019 at 16:38 // Reply

    Excellent reporting, It beggars belief that both the Council and East Kent Housing could behave with such a gross disregard to the health and safety of their tenants. The Local Government Ombudsman and Private Eye may also be interested to learn about this debacle.

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