Glasgow student flats operator gets licence after fire scares

Student room Image copyright Boho
Image caption The Castlebank Street complex is made up of 33 flats

A student housing provider which moved hundreds of tenants into flats which had not been assessed by fire chiefs has been granted a restricted licence.

Firefighters were called to the flats in Glasgow's west end 12 times in the month after they opened last October.

They could not complete an audit of Scotway House before students moved in because Structured House Group (SHG) had not received council clearance.

SHG has now been granted a one-year licence but with a "severe warning".

Licensing chiefs heard steps had been taken to address issues at the 33 flats, which accommodate 169 students.

SHG had previously been accused of "putting profit above safety" by moving students into flats before securing a certificate from the council to confirm building work was finished.

To avoid evicting students and abide by licensing rules, the operators of the Castlebank Street property said they had closed the communal kitchens and paid for a catering company to provide meals.

'Huge expense'

They offered a reduced rent to the tenants and handed out vouchers so people could eat locally. All certification is also now up to date.

Archie MacIver, representing SHG, told councillors: "The company has brought in, three times a day, a catering company to provide hot and cold meals to everyone. That has come at a huge expense."

He said the situation had "moved on hugely from where we were" and the accommodation was "very much state of the art", with more than £40m invested by SHG.

"They had the worst of starts but they have learned from that," Mr MacIver said. "Everything is in order."

Cooking incidents

SHG was warned over its future management of the accommodation. A further 230 students live on the site in homes which do not require a licence.

At an initial hearing in October, a fire service spokesman said the 12 call-outs all related to cooking incidents.

He said it was difficult to qualify the service's concerns "because we didn't have the opportunity to undertake a full structural audit".

Updating the committee, Mr MacIver said there had only been two calls to the fire service over the festive period, which he described as "non-events".

Councillor Elspeth Kerr had previously criticised the developer for what she felt was a "money-grabbing" approach. "I think it would have been far safer if you had said we're not ready yet," she said.

However, at the second hearing, she added: "I'm glad to see the steps that have been taken."

Story provided by local democracy reporter Drew Sandelands

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