Developers fined for 'deathtrap' student accommodation block


Two housing developers in Manchester have had to pay more than £14,000 for risking the lives of their tenants in student accommodation described in court as a 'deathtrap.'

The two companies were found guilty of failing to meet safety standards as required by building regulations at their 55-flat housing development in Grafton Street, Ardwick.

Council surveyors found serious breaches of fire safety regulations including a lack of self-closing fire doors and inadequate fire resisting walls. Windows required for smoke ventilation were completely obscured by scaffolding and rear fire escape routes passed through a building site. The property would also have been difficult for the fire service to access.

Property companies Cost Design and UK Real Estate pleaded guilty to breaching building regulations at Manchester Magistrates' Court on Wednesday 24 August.

Cost Design was fined £4,500, and ordered to pay £2,590 costs, while UK Real Estate was fined £4,750 with costs of £2,609.

"Allowing this building to be occupied when it was so flagrantly unfit for occupation is inexcusable,” said councillor Nigel Murphy, executive member for the environment. “These two MCR Group companies let their own self-interest take priority over the safety of students, and the council had to step in and ensure that vital safety work was carried out before students could move back in.

"I hope this case serves as a lesson to the developers never again to put profit before safety. I also hope serves as a timely reminder to students, as they look for accommodation for the next academic year, to be very careful where they put their trust."

Concerns were first raised when students attempting to move into the development found their new home to be little more than a building site, according to Manchester City Council. Building control surveyors visited the site and found the development to be unsafe for occupation, meaning students had to be found alternative accommodation while vital safety work was carried out.

In response to the convictions, a spokesperson for MCR Group told

“Costdesign and UK Real Estate Developments Ltd (the companies) very much regret the incidents which led to the prosecutions.

“At all times, the companies had followed the advice of professional advisers throughout the design and construction stages of the build programme.

“Once the breaches were brought to the companies’ attention, huge efforts were made to re-house the occupiers forthwith and to undertake the necessary works to the deficient areas. Since this incident [MCR Group] has employed a former senior council officer to deal with compliance issues generally and to ensure that there is no repetition of such events.

“Most of the original occupiers returned to the flats once remedial works had been completed and, subsequently, a majority have signed for a second year at the property.”