Kent Fire & Rescue Service (KFRS) via their building safety fire risk inspection team, based at Folkestone Fire Station, have given Folkestone & Hythe District Council until the 17th February 2020 to resolve the significant outstanding fire safety issues at Ross House, Ross Way, Folkestone.
In a damning fire notice sent to Cllr David Monk on Nov 25th 2019 – which can be downloaded at the end of this article – it is clear the conversion of Ross House “was total shit” and “sub standard“ with regards to fire safety, just like Cllr Tim Prater (pictured) said.
Cllr Prater (Lib Dem) & Cllr Gary Fuller (Lib Dem) are the ward Cllrs
Ross House has 43 tenants living in 16 flats, men, women and children, some of them are disabled.
On the 27th Dec 2019 we made you aware that five Fire Risk Assessments (FRA) have been undertaken on Ross House since the Council agreed to purchased it from Oliver Davis for £1.8 million on Friday 13th April 2018.
On Nov 1st 2019 the fourth Fire Risk Assessment was undertaken and gave it a FRA of intolerable.
The Council did not vacate the tenants, they left them in the building where they remain to this day.
On the 18th Nov 2019 an officer from Folkestone Kent Fire & Rescue Service Building Safety fire risk inspection team visits Ross House and undertakes a fire safety audit. On the 25th Nov the KFRS officer writes to Cllr David Monk, ccing in East Kent Housing and the Folkestone & Hythe District Council building control team, setting out the issues and the remedies they must put in place before they re-inspect Ross House on the 17th Feb 2020.
The Fire Notice sets out three articles the Council are in breach of under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, they are:
the remedy KFRS have said the Council must do is as follows:
The irony here is, it was the Council’s building control team which signed off the building in April 2018 saying it was safe for tenants to live in. So can we trust them to do a proper job when they got it wrong the first time?
The Corporate Director responsible for this department then and now is Andy Blaszkowicz – Director of Housing & Operations (pictured) who has recently been promoted.
What’s also clear is the floor boards on the ground floor; and the first floor, were not pulled up to place a fire prevention barrier to prevent fire from spreading through the building. The same is true of the loft space. Yet the Council’s building control allegedly visited Ross House seven times between April 2017 and April 2018 to inspect the progress of the work. If they did visit, then how come supposedly competent building control inspectors never picked up on the significant issues highlighted in the KFRS Fire Notice?
It begs the question: how many buildings converted into flats and inspected by the Council’s building control department across the district, might not meet the approved fire safety regulations?
This makes it clear that the Council were clearly in breach of their legal obligations to keep tenants safe.
KFRS set out two remedies.
Now the remedy is damning, truly damning and shocking as it says:
Now to give context to this, it means the tenants front doors to their flats must all be replaced as they are NOT fire safe and do not provide adequate fire protection to tenants of Ross House. Nor are the frames safely built into the brickwork. So both the frames to the doors and the doors themselves must be replaced.
Much of the conversion work was undertaken by Crusade Building Services owned by Daniel Knight. The developer was Oliver Davis. We personally would not trust either of them to undertake any conversion on any building we owned.
The Cabinet Member responsible for Housing is Cllr David Godfrey (pctured). He has just thirty one days to ensure all the issues set out in the fire notice are sorted. We strongly suspect the Council will NOT be able to comply, as they’ll need to take up all the floor boards and place fire prevention between the flats to stop fire spreading. The same is true of the loft space as well.
Now let’s not forget the Regulatory of Social Housing in their notice handed down on Sept 11th 2019 said:
In respect of fire safety, Folkestone & Hythe DC has a statutory duty under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, to regularly assess the risk of fire in properties where it has responsibility for maintenance. Having identified the hazards and people at risk, it is also required to take precautions to prevent the risk of fire. The regulator has learned that up until mid-2019, Folkestone & Hythe DC had around 500 outstanding actions arising from Fire Risk Assessments. Some of the actions had been outstanding for a significant period of time.
We are deeply concerned for all tenants and leaseholders who live in Folkestone & Hythe District Council owned Council properties. They too might be at significant risk from fire; risk which has been ignored by the Council since 2014.
Finally, this further demonstrates our Council under the leadership of Dr Susan Priest (pictured) is not fit for purpose; and she and Andy Blaszkowicz (pictured) should step down with immediate effect over these significant protracted failings .
Here is the letter as promised.
The Shepwayvox Team
The Velvet Voices of Dissent