Glasgow & West Scotland

Glasgow student flats operator 'put profit over safety'

Student room Image copyright Boho
Image caption The company's website advertises the Castlebank Street flats

A student housing provider has been accused of putting profit above safety after hundreds of tenants were moved into unlicensed flats which have not been fully assessed by fire chiefs.

Firefighters have been called to the flats in Glasgow's west end, on 12 occasions since it opened last month.

They could not complete an audit of Scotway House before students moved in.

This was because the developer had not secured a certificate from the council to confirm building work was finished.

Structured House Group, the operators of the Castlebank Street property, have also failed to supply the required gas certificate.

Licensing chiefs turned down their bid for houses in multiple occupation (HMO) licences for 33 flats, housing 169, mainly international, students.

Laws governing HMOs were introduced in 2000 after two young men died in a flat fire on Melrose Street in the Woodlands area of the city.

Councillor Elspeth Kerr said: "We have HMO laws because two boys died because of an unlicensed, unsafe premises. We want to stop that happening again.

"I'm absolutely aghast at what I'm hearing. Are peoples' lives expendable?"

Company director Brian Smith said: "Not at all, councillor. The decision was borne out of safety."

'Borne out of money'

But Ms Kerr said: "I think it was borne out of money. I think it would have been far safer if you had said we're not ready yet."

Mr Smith responded: "The majority of the students were already in the country. They were effectively our responsibility."

"There's no way you can say we're toying with lives here. The building was built in line with regulations."

A fire service spokesman said the call-outs all related to cooking incidents, adding firefighters had offered advice to the property owners.

However, he said: "It is difficult to qualify our concerns because we didn't have the opportunity to undertake a full structural audit."

"Without a structural approach I would only be giving an opinion."

The council will now consider its options, which could include reporting the incident to the Procurator Fiscal. A further 230 students live on the site in homes which do not require a licence.

Mr Smith said they had expected a site visit from the council's building control team.

"The works are complete, we just can't get a response from building control," he added. "We're pushing day in day out for a response."

Asked about the call-outs, he said: "There's a significant chance that the majority of those are because the sensors are set almost too safe."

Mr Smith added that students had been made aware of the situation.

Story provided by local democracy reporter Drew Sandelands