As the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Student Group during the last three Parliaments, I have written to the Housing Secretary seeking urgent reassurances on high-rise housing following Friday’s fire in a Bolton student accommodation block.
I received reassurances from the South Yorkshire Fire Authority and from Sheffield City Council that an urgent review will be undertaken on local high-rise developments, but we need the Government to take action.
Here’s the full text of my letter:
I am writing to you as the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Students in the last Parliament following the fire in the Bolton student accommodation block on Friday.
I note that the Secretary of State for Education tweeted that he has “written to all university vice chancellors asking that they – and their commercial partners – review fire safety procedures and safeguards across residential, teaching & research accommodation. I have asked them to report back to me as swiftly as possible.”
His initiative is helpful but limited. You will know that most purpose-built student accommodation is not run by universities directly or in partnership, but by independent developers. You will also know that much high-rise accommodation has mixed use by students and non-students or is wholly occupied by non-students. Clearly all lives are important, and we need to address the concerns that all of those living in high-rise blocks with cladding face.
I would therefore ask that you complete the investigation launched into HPL cladding, which it is reported may not be concluded for some months, as a matter of urgency and that you extend it to cover any other cladding.
I would also ask that you urgently review building control procedures, following an incident in Sheffield in which the Council had to evacuate a student accommodation complex. This action was taken as a result of basic fire regulation failures on a building which had apparently been signed off by a government-approved private building inspection company without a site inspection.
I look forward to hearing from you as a matter of urgency.