University bosses are having to fork out thousands to replace cladding on an accommodation block where a fire broke out last year.

05 December 2022

The façade was affixed to the Canterbury Christ Church-owned building at a decorative jaunty angle, but after the blaze last November, it was discovered this could encourage flames to spread.

The university is now having to cough up an undisclosed sum to reapply identical cladding at a different angle, to ensure students’ lives are not put in danger.

Petros Court, opposite Dane John Gardens, is a 418-bedroom student block that was constructed over several years from 2014.

But a year ago, a fire broke out in a third floor flat. Firefighters were called and the building was safely evacuated.

A spokesperson from the fire service said: “We were called to reports of a fire in a bedroom at about 7 pm on November 17, 2021. Three fire engines attended the incident. Crews extinguished the flames and helped make the scene safe. The fire is believed to have started accidentally by a candle”.

Crews worked with the management team to issue smoke alarm safety advice before passing the scene back into the care of the site owner.”

Development firm Kember Loudon Williams made the application on behalf of the university to change the cladding, which was approved by the city council last Monday.

The company confirmed the “reason for the change is to improve performance in the event of a fire”.

Canterbury Christ Church, which owns the building, said the work was being carried out in response to law changes around cladding.

The Building Safety Act, which was passed in April, puts the responsibility of removing or changing cladding posing a fire hazard in the hands of building owners.

It was prompted by the Grenfell Tower tragedy in north Kensington, where 72 people died in a fire that spread rapidly due to cladding on the exterior of the high-rise building.

A university spokesperson said: “Following recent changes to legislation, and as part of our ongoing commitment to fire safety and the welfare of our students, we have conducted various investigations and risk assessments on our buildings”.

As a result, we have identified works that need to be carried out to ensure that Petros Court meets the very highest fire safety standards. We are continuing to work with our students and partners to ensure Petros Court remains the safest environment for everyone.”

Neither the university, nor Kember Loudon Williams, would confirm how much the work will cost.