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Freelance journalist

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Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
April 19, 2023


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Building safety

‘Inadequate compartmentation’ revealed as reason behind Leeds student accommodation fire safety prohibition notices

Ron Alalouff discovers that inadequate compartmentation was the reason behind prohibition notices served on five blocks of student accommodation in Leeds.

When I tried to get some details about reported prohibition notices served in January on five relatively modern blocks of student accommodation in Leeds, I was met with a wall of silence and obfuscation by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s (WYFRS) press office. I couldn’t even access the notices on the National Fire Chief’s Council’s (NFCC) public register, and there was no record of them on the fire service’s website either.


Credit: Stephen Craven

This lack of information provoked my curiosity further, so after weeks of evasion by the press office, I filed a Freedom of Information request with the questions I sought answers to.

The property is Eldon Court in Leeds LS2 9AA, which is split into five residential blocks and is believed to have been completed in 2005. The accommodation comprises studios and one- to five-bedroom flats with open plan kitchen/living rooms, and includes a gym, entertainment room, café, mini-market and even a steam room/sauna.

Prohibition notices

Five identical prohibition notices were served on Northend Management Ltd as the responsible person with control of the premises. The notices allege that inadequate compartmentation meant that the means of escape may not be safe in the event of a fire, and there was insufficient means to reduce the spread of fire.

As a result of the prohibition notices, up to 300 students had to immediately find emergency accommodation. At that time, Deputy Chief Fire Officer Dave Walton said: “The decision to take this action has not been taken lightly, especially given the resultant upheaval it has caused for many people. We had no choice but to act in this way after our investigations highlighted serious concerns and risk to life.

“We were called in after a survey of the building revealed several potential fire risks. The risks were so serious that it would have been dangerous to allow people to continue to stay in the building, once these were identified.”

The provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order alleged to have been breached are Article 8 (general fire precautions – insufficient means to reduce the risk of fire spread) and Article 14 (emergency routes and exits – inadequate means to ensure the means of escape can be safely used in case of fire).

Absence of online register

Asked why the prohibition order was not listed on the enforcement register as legally required, WYFRS said it is “developing a new database, which is going through a transition process”. The fire service intends to adopt the NFCC enforcement register, and this will “take place in the near future”. In the meantime, “it is still possible for members of the public to view our enforcement register (which can be arranged), or the information can be provided on request”.

In response to a request for more detailed information on the specific deficiencies of the compartmentation and fabric of the building, WYFRS said: “It may not be possible to release all information requested under the Freedom of Information Act (where specific and detailed information has been requested) due to ongoing enforcement action and investigation under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.”

In a similar case in 2019, WYFRS issued a prohibition notice on Kingfisher Court, a student accommodation block in Chapel Hill, Huddersfield, after risks to life were found. A follow-up report revealed over 200 faults in the premises, and that should a fire have occurred, the building would offer little or no protection for its occupants.


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