A ‘Substantial’ risk to life has been concluded in a fire risk assessment carried out for Arlington House in Margate.
The assessment, carried out by CS Todd Associates, found numerous defects including to fire resisting doors, deficiencies in the protection to the risers between the flats and to the fire resistance of flat entrance doors.
The report says: “Our assessment is that the risk to life from fire in these premises is ‘Substantial’. We have concluded this by taking into account the likelihood of fire and the consequences for life safety in the event of fire.
“The reason for classifying the building as a ‘Substantial’ risk is that:
- there appear to be issues with the horizontal compartmentation between the flats, which create the potential for occupants to be affected beyond the flat of fire origin (as set out in a Notice of Deficiencies issued by Kent Fire and Rescue Service and referred to in Section 5 of this report).
- the seriousness of the issues with compartmentation undermines the current “stay put” evacuation strategy, and there is a need to consider interim measures to reduce the risk to residents.
The other main findings are:
- Flat entrance doors were the subject of inspections in 2021/22 by Parryfire, and the findings were recorded in reports dated February 2022, July 2022 and February 2023. Defects affecting the integrity of many of the doors were identified in these reports and, at the time of this current fire survey, it was found that only limited progress has been made to rectify these defects.
- Fire-resisting doors in the common areas were also found to have a large number of defects affecting their integrity.”
In 2019, 15 fire safety failures were listed on an enforcement notice to landlord Freshwater Property Management Limited, which hold the lease for the 18 floor (plus roof level) block through its company Metropolitan Property Realizations Limited.
An enforcement notice was served following an inspection by a fire safety officer. The notice was eventually withdrawn but the case remained open due to there being a number of outstanding works to be completed, particularly focused on doors, the lifts and the fire alarm system.
That year Thanet council also issued a formal letter of concern to Freshwater over serious failings in management at Arlington House.
Notice for works
KFRS issued a new letter of advice with a schedule of outstanding works last December and have now served a further notice requiring that all matters be addressed.
Among the outstanding works are the need for surveys to individual flat doors and remedial works to bring them up to current fire safety standards and surveys of kitchen and bathroom vents in flats to eliminate the risk of fire and smoke spreading in the event of a fire in the building.
One resident said: “Lessees appear to be powerless to get works completed or completed to a satisfactory standard and the only recourse appears to be to return to the First Tier Property Tribunal to challenge the costs. In the meantime, significant fire safety elements remain non-compliant.”
Fire safety audit
KFRS has now issued a new schedule of works that need to be completed at the block.
Suzanna Chisholm, Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) Head of Building Safety said: “We continue to work with the responsible person for Arlington House to ensure fire safety measures are rectified, mainly in relation to compartmentation (referring to any means to reduce fire spread, such as fire doors and wall cavities).
“We carried out a fire safety audit of the premises (this month) and officers issued a schedule of works, which the responsible person is taking proactive steps to complete.
“Our officers and crews have been working with the residents to offer reassurance, and we have sufficient resources and plans in place to respond to any reports of an emergency at Arlington House.”
‘No management responsibilities’
Thanet council, which owns the land at Arlington House, says it has no management responsibilities for the building.
A council spokesperson said: “ Arlington House is privately owned, by Freshwater Property Management Limited. They are responsible for ensuring that an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment is in place. They must also ensure that any recommendations are implemented, to reduce the risk of the spread of fire.
“Although Thanet District Council owns the land around Arlington House, it is leased to Bernard Sunley Investments (Margate) Limited until 2160. The council has no management responsibilities for the building.”
The lead responsibility for enforcing the requirements of the Fire Safety Order 2005 for high rise buildings in Kent rests with the Kent Fire and Rescue Service. Thanet District Council leads on enforcing regulations in relation to lower rise and converted residential buildings.
These regulations are due to be further enhanced later this year, with the implementation of the new Building Safety Act 2022. This legislation will introduce new requirements for the owners of high-rise residential buildings. The Health and Safety Executive will take a lead role in enforcing the new requirements.
Freshwater and management firm PS&B have been contacted for comment.
The 15 fire safety failures at Margate’s Arlington House that led to two enforcement notices being served
Help us to continue bringing you Thanet news with a donation towards our running costs https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=YF7BH2EF4UG2N