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City councillors uncover ‘serious safety issues’ in Caton Court housing

They say the situation is ‘unacceptable’

Labour city councillors have today denounced the LUSU-endorsed student housing at Caton Court.

Multiple safety hazards, and awful noises have been reported in a turn of events the councillors describe as having gone "terribly wrong."

Many students have also spoken out about their problems with living on what has been called "a building site."

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Oliver Robinson, Jack O'Dwyer-Henry and Katie Whearty released a public statement condemning Caton Court

The full statement reads: "We have uncovered a series of serious safety issues and failures in delivery at the Caton Court student accommodation block in central Lancaster, after being contacted by several residents.

"Caton Court is in a formal sponsorship agreement with Lancaster University Students’ Union.

"Lancaster University advised first year-students who did not receive on-campus accommodation to apply to Caton Court.

"Caton Court is also accredited by LU Homes.

LUSU have endorsed the student housing that has experienced the faults described by the councillors and disgruntled residents

The statement also says: "We will do everything in our power to impress on the University and the Students’ Union the severity of this situation.

"It was unacceptable that this situation arose, and we trust that the University and the Students' Union will accept their failings, and ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

"More broadly, there seems to be a breakdown of trust between Aparto, LU Homes and the residents.

"We’re encouraged by the indications given to us that LU Homes will be reassessing their procedures and looking at where things have gone so terribly wrong," the councillors said.

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Katie Whearty and Jack O'Dwyer-Henry are two of the councillors condemning the Caton Court situation

The statement describes how, on the 5th October 2019, during a fire alarm, "a fire curtain was lowered at the entrance to the main stairwell, trapping about 100 residents inside the stairwell as the alarm sounded".

"The alternative, poorly signposted, exit, could only be accessed through a door in the basement with a No Access sign on it," the statement said.

It continues: "The site was advertised to be complete in September 2019, but it is still under construction whilst students live there.

"Over 30 residents were temporarily housed in a Travelodge whilst their rooms were still being completed at the end of September."

"The laundry facilities have only recently opened, forcing students to buy new clothes as they were unable to access laundry facilities for the first two weeks of their tenancy.

"The laundry facilities currently available consist of seven washing machines for the 444 residents. Aparto have no plans to expand laundry provision.

"There have been at least two power outages affecting the site.

"On the 13th of October, there was another blackout. During this time, a student was trapped in a lift; another student was left to prise open the lift doors to let them out.

"The emergency lighting failed in up to 60 per cent of the complex, according to reports.

"In a meeting with Council officials it was confirmed that the cause of the power outage had not yet been determined."

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The three Labour city councillors pledged to fight for students' housing rights in their election campaign

The councillors also provided quotes from affected students. One fourth-year said: "The residents have been exposed to massive amounts of undue stress.

"We are still living in accommodation with regular blackouts, fire safety hazards and in some cases lack of toilets or washing facilities.” – Tom, fourth year student.

A third-year added: "For all the money we’re paying, our safety should be ensured.

"They can take advantage of us because they know we are students… how can a power cut in your own building be ‘out of your control’?"