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EXCLUSIVE: Ealing Lib Dems call on Ealing Council and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to help North Acton students “living in building site hell”

Ealing Liberal Democrats are calling on Ealing Council and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to “convene a panel to discuss” the issues that has seen  University of West London (UWL) and University of the Arts London (UAL) students say they are “living in building site hell” with their accommodation in North Acton.

Students studying at UWL and UAL and staying at its The Costume Store accommodation in North Acton told EALING.NEWS they have had enough of noise and debris going on daily that has blighted their lives along with concerns about their safety.

The students, who pay £237 a week for a studio and £169 for an en-suite room, say they are “living in building site hell” with constant noise, dust and debris impacting their lives and fear it is only a matter of time before something happens.

The Costume Store, which opened in 2012, is located on the site of the former BBC Costume Store and its buildings go up to 17 storeys.

Students say they keep their windows shut for fear the dust and debris getting into their rooms and affecting their health and that the works which started in late 2021 are set to continue until autumn 2023.

Students staying at the 730 rooms have been given a discount which both UWL and UAL say is  “to compensate for any inconvenience you may encounter, we are offering all students an 18% reduction in rent for the duration of your contract at The Costume Store in the next academic year as a goodwill gesture.”

Councillor Jon Ball, Ealing Liberal Democrat Planning and Housing spokesperson said: “It is sad to see that students who live at the Costume Store in Acton are not being given due care and attention by the builders. The justification appears to be that because they have been advised that building work was taking place resulting in a financial discount on the usual price that everything is “all right”.

Councillor Ball added: “However, this patently is not the case. We live in a democracy and as such these students have questions they would like answered. It is Ealing Council who regulate building control in the borough and who also have representation in the ODPC area of development for HS2 in which this block sits. Thus it is for Ealing Council and the Mayor of London to convene a panel to discuss and advise these students of issues relating to their public health through living in what seems to be an unsafe building site.

“It is interesting to note that these students are living in towers of the type which the Labour Council are trying to promote all over borough in the Local Development Plan which is under consultation. The Costume store development has tall towers up to 17 storeys.”

iQ, the owner of The Costume Store has been carrying out planned external improvement works on the building since October 2021.  Over the last few months, students have said the situation has got worse.

Among the concerns is the ongoing work throughout the day from Monday to Friday which students say last several hours and are affected by ongoing noise along with debris and dust from it. They say they need to keep windows shut as the dust and debris gets into rooms.

Equans, which is doing the works for iQ says on its website: “Equans, on behalf of iQ, who own the building are currently undertaking works which will run throughout the 2022-23 academic year. The works will replace the materials on the exterior of the building to future-proof against any changes to building regulations or legislation. Please rest assured, the building has been confirmed as safe for occupation by both fire engineers and independent fire risk assessors and has the appropriate fire safety measures in place.”

It added: “The work will be carried out in phases to minimise disruption and inconvenience to residents. Contractors will begin setting up at 8am, and work will take place from 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.”

Despite the assurances, students talking to EALING.NEWS say they are concerned about their safety and that the ongoing work is making their lives difficult and has been described as “building site hell”.

“It’s unbearable. This is building site hell,” one student told EALING.NEWS. “No one ever indicated it would be this bad. They said we would be a discount for some inconvenience, but this is much more than that. It’s a nightmare. Also as a UWL student who only came here in September, we don’t seem to be treated with any respect as we are totally ignored about our concerns. No one is listening to us.  We are paying money and having to live like this.”

As well as issues over noise, students have raised concerns that about how in the event of a fire how will they be safely evacuated.

One student said: “How would the fire brigade be able to rescue anyone with all the scaffolding covering the building and windows. This is a really dangerous situation for us.”

On the Equans website, it says: “Please rest assured, the building has been confirmed as safe for occupation by both fire engineers and independent fire risk assessors and has the appropriate fire safety measures in place” but students are asking to see full safety reports.

One student told EALING.NEWS: “We have asked for more information but have received nothing, who are these fire engineers and independent fire risk assessors? Nothing has been done to reassure us. This is a disaster waiting to happen and no one is helping us.”

A UAL spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “The safety and wellbeing of our students is our priority. We are working closely with iQ to keep students updated on the progress of the building works and ensure that the appropriate safety measures and noise mitigations are in place.”

They added: “We would ask students with concerns to speak with their Residence Manager in the first instance and, if necessary, our comprehensive complaints procedure is available for students to use to ensure that their voices are heard and their concerns are thoroughly addressed.”

In a statement, iQ told EALING.NEWS: “Building improvement works are taking place at The Costume Store and the site is certified as safe and fit for residential occupation while works are underway. Our site team has been working closely with contractors to minimise disruption to students, including providing alternative study space. Students were made aware of the planned works prior to booking and offered reduced rent at the time.”

A UWL spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “We take the welfare of our students very seriously. We are aware of building works at The Costume Store and we are working with The Costume Store accommodation management  team to minimise disruption to our students. All students were informed of the planned building works prior to taking up residence and consequently all accommodation was offered at a discounted rate.”

EALING.NEWS has asked Ealing Council for a comment.

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