Safety checks at our high-rise buildings


The safety of our residents is and has always been the top priority of Canterbury City Council and our housing provider East Kent Housing.

In light of the awful events at Grenfell Tower in London we recognise they are likely to have serious concerns and we want to do all we can to allay their fears.

We have adopted an ultra-cautious approach even though the cladding used on our three high-rise buildings – external wall insulation – is not the same as that used on Grenfell.

In a similar vein, we do not have the same problems as those identified in Camden, the only council that has evacuated some of its residents so far.

There they have been moved from tower blocks where there are significant problems with fire doors and serious concerns about the gas mains. This is on top of fears about the cladding used.

We have already put enhanced measures in place on top of our regular and extensive safety checks. These include extra testing of our fire alarms and detection systems, emergency lighting and emergency ventilation systems.

We have also reviewed our fire risk assessments including an analysis of our evacuation policies and inspections of firefighting provision. We want to make sure we have identified every possible hazard.

We have been visiting the tower blocks on a regular basis to explain to residents the action we are taking and to address their concerns. We have also offered to put together a personal emergency evacuation plan (PEEP) where one is not already in place.

Where someone has been out when we have called, we have posted letters and leaflets explaining the situation and inviting them to get in touch if they have any questions.

Yesterday and today (Tuesday 4 and Wednesday 5 July), we have double checked the cladding and the fire barriers within that cladding at Windsor House in Whitstable and Margaret and Elizabeth Courts in Herne Bay.

Samples from the three blocks will be sent to the British Research Establishment (BRE) for testing.

Margaret Court was also inspected by officers from East Kent Housing, Canterbury City Council and experts from Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) on Friday (30 June).

The visit was part of a programme where all tower blocks in Kent will receive a visit from KFRS. During those visits its community safety teams will be carrying out home safety checks, giving residents fire safety advice and local crews will familiarise themselves with building layouts.

Canterbury City Council Deputy Chief Executive Velia Coffey said: “Thankfully, fires like the one that has rocked the whole country are extremely rare and in the circumstances we feel being extremely cautious is absolutely the right approach.

“We will do our utmost to keep them safe and we want to thank them for their patience and understanding.

“We will look to learn the lessons from the Grenfell Tower public inquiry when it reports but in the meantime we are taking a totally fresh look at our fire safety arrangements.

“If we discover remedial work is needed at any of our blocks, we will ensure it is carried out urgently. The money is in place to make this happen.”

East Kent Housing Chief Executive Deborah Upton said: “It goes without saying that after seeing the events unfold in London our residents will be worried about their own safety.

“East Kent Housing is keeping them informed about the action we are taking every step of the way and are encouraging them to contact us with any concerns.”

Windsor House is a sheltered housing scheme whose residents also benefit from the Lifeline personal alarm system.

Every resident in Windsor House already has a personal emergency evacuation plan.

Detailed fire safety advice is available on East Kent Housing’s website.

The council has written to landlords on its HMO (Houses of Multiple Occupation) register and has reminded them of their fire safety responsibilities.