Exclusive by Connor Stringer
A CATALOGUE of safety issues was discovered by inspectors at a landmark student accommodation tower in Bournemouth, Buzz News can exclusively reveal.
Last night concerned students were given the option to leave the 16-storey Lansdowne Point after a series of “category 1 hazards’ were discovered while cladding similar to that used at Grenfell Tower is removed.
During a visit in September 2019, inspectors found “remedial action” was required to address “Category 1 hazards” – which is listed as the most serious.
The building, in Holdenhurst Road, contains ACM (aluminium composite material) which is a type of combustible cladding which was banned on high-rise buildings after the Grenfell tragedy. Inspectors also expressed concerns over the fire doors, sprinkler systems, emergency lighting and fire alarm system.
There are 393 bedrooms in the block which is home to 400 residents from a mixture of education providers including Bournemouth University International College and is leased and managed by Kaplan Bournemouth Ltd.
An Improvement Notice was issued by BCP Council on 10 January under the Housing Act 2004 which reveals:
- ACM cladding panels cover approximately 5% of the external facade from ground to 15th floors. Two samples of this cladding have been tested and found to be Category 3 ACM. These panels are now restricted to buildings below 18 metres in height.
- There appears to be wood effect HPL panels covering 20% of the external facade from first to 15 floors. Inspectors state that these panels could present a notable fire hazard on buildings over 18m and immediate measures should be taken.
- Evidence behind the bronze cladding at the roof terrace suggests the presence of a membrane behind the cladding. It is not know whether this is fire rated.
- Inspectors were not able to confirm the presence of cavity barriers or fire stopping within the internal cladding system.
- The facade does not appear to have been maintained well. Gaskets were seen hanging way from the facade. Annual maintenance should have been carried out.
- Some areas of ACM and HPL cladding are located in areas that gave cause for concern.
- There are concerns regarding the maintenance of fire doors within the building, the sprinkler system and emergency lighting and splitting up of the building.
- It was ordered that the six minute delay for activation of the communal fire alarm must be removed.
The work needs to be started by 30 April and completed in six months.
A resident at Lansdowne Point told BUzz that he ‘doesn’t feel safe’ staying in the accommodation.
The resident said: “After living in the property for five years, personally I don’t feel safe as they have recommended residents to move to other halls.”
“I don’t feel it is safe to stay in the residence while the building is under construction,” they said.
The leaseholders, Kaplan Bournemouth Ltd, have previously stated that some of the cladding covering the exterior is similar to that used at the Grenfell Tower where 79 people died.
Meetings were held throughout yesterday during which Lansdowne Point residents met representatives of Kaplan Living.
In a statement, the Lansdowne Point Residence Team informs residents that some work is required on the building’s exterior “to ensure the building meets recent changes to fire safety standards”.
The statement adds an Improvement Notice has been received from BCP council which details the work required.
It goes on: “We want to emphasise that your safety and experience is of paramount importance to us. Therefore, as part of our commitment to you, we are giving each student resident the option of moving to alternative accommodation for the duration of the work, if you prefer.”
Changes in legislation after Grenfell placed a ban on the use of combustible materials anywhere in the external walls of high-rise buildings over 18m above ground level.
A spokesperson for Kaplan Living Bournemouth said: “The building will remain open and operational while works are carried out and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council and the Dorset Fire and Rescue Service have made it clear that student residents do not need to be relocated while works are undertaken.”
However, the company are giving students the option to leave the accommodation ahead of noise disruption as contractors remove the cladding.
The spokesman added: “We are offering each student the opportunity to relocate to alternative accommodation if they prefer.”
The work is expected to last seven months, with de-cladding due to begin in April and must be completed by October.
Bournemouth Poole and Christchurch Council said they were “duty bound” to serve the notice.
A spokesperson from BCP Council said: “This decision has followed detailed assessment and consideration in partnership with Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service as well as the Joint Inspection Team from MHCLG.”
“Whilst we have been reassured by the recent progress relating to remedial works, given the time that has passed since the Grenfell tragedy and the current position with the property, we are duty bound to take this action,” they said.
Kaplan Housing has accommodation in Brighton, Glasgow, Liverpool and Nottingham.
— Buzz News (@buzz_bmth) January 16, 2020
More on this story to follow.