Student bedsit safety - top priority

DEPUTY prime minister John Prescott is to be told that improving fire safety in student bedsits is still a top priority – and government action is needed now.

By Richard Cornwell

DEPUTY prime minister John Prescott is to be told that improving fire safety in student bedsits is still a top priority – and government action is needed now.

Campaigners today vowed to carry on their fight for new laws to make sure all people living in properties divided into multiple occupation are protected.

Felixstowe Town Council has already seen success from its campaign to highlight the safety worries about bedsits after an announcement that sprinkler systems will be installed in some properties in future.


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But while sprinkler systems will protect many more people, students living in shared accommodation will still fall outside the law.

The council – which launched its campaign after the death of Rob Giles, 18, and Will Stokes, 19, in an horrific fire in Holland Road, Felixstowe – is delighted with the progress made so far, but feels students could still be at risk.

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Councillors say that there are people living in Felixstowe and Ipswich in shared student accommodation, where they have individual rooms but share perhaps a lounge and a kitchen, but many families will also have young people living in such properties away at college and university.

At present the law does not insist that these properties should have fire doors and walls, electronic alarms, and external fire escape – like other bedsits.

Councillors agreed to continue their campaign and authorised town clerk Susan Robinson to write to the deputy prime minister outlining a need to seal the loophole in the law to ensure student properties are treated the same as others.

It had been thought at first that Mr Giles and Mr Stokes, who died in a blaze caused by either a candle or a faulty TV set, were living in student accommodation though investigations later showed this was not the case.

The property in Holland Road had been turned into a house of bedsits without planning permission just a few days before the tragedy.

The landlord – who has not been named – had been told when he purchased the property that planning restrictions prohibited the house from being used for multiple occupation and the fire protection measures were not adequate.

For technical reasons connected with planning law and schedules of work, the landlord cannot be prosecuted.

Deputy mayor Doreen Savage told the town council's general purposes committee that it was "disgraceful that there is no way this landlord can be prosecuted" after he had flaunted the law.

Mayor Malcolm Minns said the current situation was unacceptable and the law needed to be examined.

WEBLINKS: www.felixstowe.gov.uk

www.shelter.org.uk

www.HomelessnessAct.org.uk

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