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Invicta House in Margate fire safety work to start in summer

By Matt Leclere

Work to address fire risks at a Margate tower block is set to start this summer.

The council-maintained high rise Invicta House has been flagged as needing safety enhancements following an assessment.

East Kent Housing (EKH), which manages the 14-storey building, has been asked to reassure residents they are not “living in a death trap”.

Fire at Invicta House during a blaze in 2007
Fire at Invicta House during a blaze in 2007

Only last year a family was unable to escape their flat after a fire blocked their only exit from the building, sparking parallels to the Grenfell Tower tragedy which claimed 72 lives in 2017.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) is working with the housing authority to make sure the planned works meet legal standards at the Millmead Road block.

A tender for a contract has now been issued by Thanet District Council calling for bids from “a suitably qualified contractor to undertake fire safety work”.

The council wants the work to commence in June, adding that starting as soon as the contract is awarded is essential, according to documents published last week on Kent Business Portal.

But a district councillor says while the tender launch shows a “sense of urgency”, the fire risks must be made public.

Cllr Suzanne Brimm (Ind) said: “Anything to do with safety is critical and people’s lives are at risk. I think it’s in the public interest to make this report public.

“If people are living in a potential death trap they need to know. Fire safety risks at a high rise are worrying.”

Several fires have taken place at the tower block, including a serious incident requiring 50 firefighters to tackle a blaze in 2007.

A flat in the building suffered a more recent fire in 2016.

Last year there were three fires set deliberately in the space of one week in April.

Grenfell Tower
Grenfell Tower

Cllr Brimm added: “The key words were fire safety risk. The council have a duty of care and they’re keeping it secret.”

The fire service says it is “satisfied” with steps being taken.

A spokesman said: “We are working with East Kent Housing, the responsible persons for Invicta House, to ensure their planned fire safety improvement works meet required standards.

“We are satisfied with the positive action East Kent Housing has taken and will continue to support them during the planned period of work.”

Tenders for the contract must be submitted by May 13.

A spokesman for EKH said: “Levels of safety at Invicta House meet current fire regulations. A tender has been issued to carry out fire safety enhancement works at Invicta House.

“This includes: new front entrance and communal doors, stairwell fire protection enhancements, and fire alarm system upgrade work.

“This work is part of a broader programme of fire safety enhancements that will be delivered in a series of phases by East Kent Housing and Thanet District Council.

"We continue to undertake routine inspections of all blocks, provide advice and guidance to residents about fire safety and engage with resident groups about enhancements and improvements to their homes. We are in the process of developing the fire safety enhancement work to other high rise blocks owned by the council.

“Residents are provided with a summary of the Fire Risk Assessment for their property on request.”

Read more: Thanet news and headlines here

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