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27th September 2018

Student accommodation covered with Grenfell-type cladding

Hundreds of students living in un-safe accommodation due to defective cladding
Student accommodation covered with Grenfell-type cladding
Photo: East European apartment block @ Martin Vorel

Figures released on Thursday by the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government revealed that 54 high-rise student accommodation buildings in the UK are still covered in Grenfell-style cladding, with only 8 being completely fixed since the incident.

The Grenfell Tower fire occurred just over 15 months ago, claiming 72 lives, and has led to calls for the government to regulate cladding on all building blocks, including halls of residence and privately owned student accommodation.

The National Union of Students have stated that the buildings should not be used until full repairs have been made. They also declared that information about all buildings affected should be published and made available to the public as a warning.

According to research by charity Electrical Safety First, the North West accounted for a fifth of all accidental electrical fires that occurred in student halls of residence between 2012 and 2017.

Student halls might be particularly vulnerable to fire hazards due to dangerous student behavior. 1 in 4 Manchester University students surveyed by Electrical Safety First admitted to falling asleep on one occasion or more with food cooking on the hob or in the oven, and 1 in 3 said they’d put something in the microwave they shouldn’t have, for example light bulbs.

Emma Drackford, Communications Director of Electrical Safety First commented: “Manchester has so much to offer, including a great night life, however as you return to study or start your exciting journey at one of the country’s best universities we’re urging you all to take care in the kitchen.

“With so many of you admitting to cooking whilst drunk as well as falling asleep with food on the hob we want you to think twice about cooking in the kitchen after a night out. There was never a better excuse to order your favourite take out after a night on the town with your friends. Try and think twice, don’t drink and fry this Freshers.”

The Guardian stated that their Freedom of Information request last week prompting the government to announce which buildings were dangerous to take residency in had been declined.

Speaking to The Guardian, officials claimed: “there was public interest in transparency with respect to the buildings’ safety but disclosing the information could endanger the mental and physical health of people living in the buildings and could compromise their safety.”

Earlier this year it was reported that Thorn Court in Salford, Greater Manchester, was at risk. Although only 3 floors have been stripped and replaced with cladding, reports show that it could take up to 2 years until the building is fixed.

Reports have also been released revealing that work will begin on a 35-storey building later this year in Manchester, using anodised aluminium, like Grenfell.

Eva Crossan Jory, the NUS vice-president for welfare has spoken out: “It’s absolutely appalling. It’s incredibly concerning to see private providers gambling with student lives.”

Following this, the higher education regulator’s chief executive has also said: “We would hope that the local fire authority and the Health and Safety Executive checks these blocks urgently to reassure students of their safety.”

A spokesman for the housing ministry has claimed: “Building owners are responsible for ensuring residents are properly made aware of fire safety procedures.”

Since the Grenfell disaster, only 15% of cladding has been fixed and replaced with 62% currently being repaired. Students in Nottingham have been informed of the situation where figures have shown to have had the biggest impact, although plans for repair have not been reported.

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