“No legal requirement” for sprinklers in student blocks

Palamon Court in Rhodaus Town is a prime example of purpose built student accommodation

There is no legal requirement for the operators of large purpose-built student blocks in Canterbury to install sprinklers in the buildings, it has emerged.

Canterbury City Council has confirmed that it has no power to force owners to put them in.

But the authority says that it is awaiting findings from various Grenfell Tower tragedy inquiries after which the government may change regulations around the risk of fire in multi-storey buildings.

Following the destructive blaze in the Old Tannery Development in the summer of 2015, Westgate ward councillor Mike Dixey led calls for sprinklers to be installed in the rebuilt block at Creine Mill Lane North.

The issue of sprinklers not being required in buildings such as Palamon Court on the Ring Road was raised by John Morgan, one of the largest private landlords for student housing in Canterbury, at a meeting of the Higher Education/Further Education Community Group at the University of Kent earlier this month,

After the meeting, the council has clarified the position on sprinklers. Spokesman Leo Whitlock said: “The operators of purpose-built student accommodation like Palamon Court are required to carry out detailed fire risk assessments under legislation that is supervised by the Kent Fire and Rescue Service.

“At the moment the council has no power to compel developers to install sprinklers under building regulations or otherwise.

“Of course, we are all awaiting the conclusions from the various inquiries into the Grenfell Tower tragedy and that situation may change.

“We do urge any developer using timber frames to install sprinklers as part of the planning process.”

Students are now beginning to trickle back into Canterbury for the start of the new academic year.

Their return coincides with new regulations which mean that landlords will have apply for licences if they own properties rented to five or more people who form more than one household, are at least three storeys high and have shared facilities such as a toilet or bathroom.

So far the council has received 102 applications for houses in multiple occupancy and all the properties have been inspected or have inspections scheduled.


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