Statements on safety from Brookes and Unite following Grenfell Tower tragedy

We have asked for statements from Oxford Brookes University and from Unite on safety of buildings.

Statement from Oxford Brookes University

Given the tragic incident at Grenfell we have made sure that our buildings continue to be of the highest standards for safety.

All our campus buildings are fully fire rated and designed with extensive fire resistance and safety features which meet the approved fire strategy. In terms of new builds there is a fire engineer employed by the University to ensure we comply with current regulations, which would include cladding.

We will continue to monitor the situation in case of any changes to regulations.


Here is Unite’s statement on fire safety which was sent to Oxford Brookes University, Unite manages Dorset House and the new Beech House development on the corners of London Road and Latimer Road.

In light of the recent tragedy in London, I wanted to give you some reassurance about Unite Students and our buildings. Below is a detailed outline of what we do and how we operate in respect to fire safety.

The safety of our properties is a key priority so we have, for some time, been working with Avon Fire and Rescue Service as part of a primary authority scheme to make sure that our buildings, policies and procedures not only comply with existing regulations but exceed them. This is supported by a robust fire risk assessment regime carried out in each premises using experienced accredited fire risk assessors who are members of the Institution of Fire Engineers. In Scotland we also undergo a rigorous licensing scheme on all properties as part of the House in Multiple Occupancy Regulations.

All of our properties comply with building regulations and have the necessary life safety systems installed that match the individual requirements of the building in question. This may include but will not be limited to alarm systems, sprinklers, dry/wet risers and automatic smoke ventilation. It is important to note that each premises will have different requirements in terms of installed fire safety systems dependent on aspects such as the number of floors, the number of escape routes and when the building was constructed or refurbished.

We have fully addressable L (Life) type fire alarm systems in all of our properties which means that all areas of the premises are covered with detection, including bedrooms, kitchens, plant rooms and communal areas. Our trained staff are alerted immediately to undertake a fire investigation at the point of activation and where necessary co-ordinate evacuation.  This alarm is also connected to an internal ARC that is manned 24/7 and 365 days of the year. 

Our fire alarm systems work on a phased evacuation, which means that residents will be prompted to evacuate based on risk and the presence of fire or smoke that could present risk and so as to not impede the fire service.  We do not operate a stay put policy and in the event of smoke or heat being detected, our systems assume that a fire situation is present and all residents are prompted to evacuate.

To support our fire safety systems, we also undertake routine inspections of our compartmentation to ensure that the fire strategy of the building is not compromised. This is done with third parties who are members of the “Association for Specialist Fire Protection” and double checked as part of our fire risk assessment regime.  This compartmentation strategy incorporates fire doors throughout the premises which are all fitted with self-closers to ensure that compartments are maintained.

All of our life systems are robustly tested in line with British Standards guidelines by competent staff and accredited third parties to ensure that they are operational at all times.  We conduct routine inspections on all plant and equipment including electrical and gas systems using accredited personal and third parties.

In 2015, we conducted a review specifically looking at the cladding on our high rise buildings, for reference this is properties with ten stories or more. Following this week’s tragic events, we have launched a further urgent review to assess whether we need to tighten up our current procedures in any way and will monitor and remain current with any findings or recommendations following an investigation into this event.

In addition to the physical fire safety measures we have in place, our staff are trained on their duties to undertake with regards to proactive and reactive fire safety management, which includes building inspections, routine fire alarm testing, evacuations and inductions for residents.

Statement re tower block safety in Oxford

Here is a statement from Oxford City Council regarding tower block safety.

The City Council is in the middle of a major refurbishment of our 5 tower blocks namely Windrush and Evenlode on Blackbird Leys, Hockmore at Temple Cowley, Foresters in Wood Farm and Plowman in Northway. The project includes improvements to the fire safety of the buildings.

In light of the tragic fire that occurred today in Kensington and Chelsea and that Grenfell Tower has also undergone a major refurbishment an urgent review of our project has been undertaken. Whilst it will be some considerable time for the investigation to complete and report we have tried to cover issues that have emerged from the media reports so far.

The key points are that

  • The design of the fire safety elements of the project was carried out in full consultation with Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue service ( OFRS ) and the Council’s Building Control service and the works when finally complete will be formally signed off by those services.

  • We are installing sprinkler systems to all dwellings. These are already operational in Windrush, Evenlode and Hockmore and are scheduled to complete in Plowman and Foresters by December 2017.These are not required by law but we decided to include them following discussions with OFRS and reviewing the recommendations from previous investigation reports into other tower block fires ( Eg Lakanhal in Southwark in 2009 )

  • We are installing a fully automated fire detection system both in individual flats as well as communal areas; that is connected directly to the fire service. Again this is already complete for Windrush, Evenlode and Hockmore.

  • The external cladding system fitted complies with all current legislation, the insulation is fire retardant and there are fire barriers at each floor level. We do not believe it is the same cladding system but we are double checking.

  • Dry risers are checked regularly to ensure they are working. These are the internal pipes with outlets at each floor that allow the fire engines to pump up high pressure water from the ground floor to each upper floor to enable them to fight the fire from the inside which is the standard practice for towers. The fire service has limitations on the equipment available to fight fire from the outside on very tall buildings.

  • Fire doors are in place to both communal areas and front entrance doors and these are being checked and upgraded where necessary as part of the works. Where residents have replaced their own front doors we are checking to ensure compliance. This may require enforcement if tenants or leaseholders refuse. We are also double checking that residents have also not installed doors for security reasons that would hamper the fire service from forcing entry to fight a fire.

  • Smoke extraction vents to stairwells are being installed which will disperse smoke from the means of escape.

  • Evacuation procedures have been reviewed with OFRS and notices of the revised arrangements have already been installed for those blocks that have already got the new detection system. We do not have a stay put policy in Hockmore and have a partial stay put to the other blocks i.e. if a fire is detected to a floor then the alarm sounds on that floor and to the floors above and below with instructions to evacuate. We may need to review this with OFRS colleagues in due course but their advice as of today remains the same

  • Access for engines have been checked to ensure there are no obstructions during our works

What sort of city do you want Oxford to be by 2036?

At next Tuesday’s Ward Focus meeting, Richard Wyatt from the City Council will be asking our residents important questions about Oxford’s future, including:

  • what sort of homes should be provided?
  • are more student halls of residence needed? More homes for older people? More affordable homes for key workers?
  • should blocks of housing be taller in order to provide a greater density of accommodation in some places?

Also at next week’s meeting, Rob Fowler from the Planning Department will come along to answer questions on the planning process relating to the latest energy pipe application, provided that application has been validated in time.

We shall also tackle hot topics like how to get parking permits, and whether Windmill Road should have a 20 MPH limit.


Headington School, London Road

Tuesday 28 June

6:00-7:30 pm

All welcome.  And an Open Session too!

First newsletter about Beech House development (Latimer Road student accommodation)

We have received the first newsletter from Winvic and reproduce it in full for our residents’ information.


MAY 2016

Project title – Beech House, Latimer Road, Oxford, OX3 7PF Project duration – 59 Weeks

Current Week No. -1


Winvic have been appointed to construct the Beech House student accommodation development on Latimer Road, Oxford.

The project comprises of the demolition works to 4 existing dwellings inclusive of external walls and garden sheds.

A temporary heras fence will be installed to the perimeter of site to allow the external walls to be demolished to allow the permanent timber hoarding to be installed.

The main development consists of the construction of a five storey Student Accommodation ground with basement & a 4 storey Residential Accommodation in a separate apartment block, adjacent to main development.

The main elements of the development will consist of secant piling and tanking works to the basement, steel frame, brick work, render, external windows and roof works.

Works and phasing will take into account the neighbourhood and congestion.



We will keep you regularly updated on the status of the works with a monthly newsletter, however should you have any queries or concerns regarding the project please do not hesitate to contact our Project Manager, Nick Lakin 077209 71948.


The associated Demolition works for the Project are due to commence on site during week commencing 31st May 2016.

However, the initial works which comprise of the erection of temporary Fencing to allow the boundary walls to be removed and the installation of the permanent timber hoarding are due to commence during week commencing 23rd May 2016.

Throughout our works we will liaise closely with the surrounding Businesses and Residents and issue regular newsletters highlighting our forthcoming works.

  • Vehicular traffic will be monitored and major deliveries booked in to minimise any disruption caused to local businesses and close neighbours.
  • Site logistic plans will be posted at the front of site and updated within the newsletters.
  • Dust and noise will be monitored throughout our works working closely with the local authorities to manage our construction works as efficiently as possible.

Nick Lakin

Project Manager
Winvic Construction Ltd
Brampton House, 19 Tenter Road Moulton Park, Northampton NN3 6PZ

T +44 (0)1604 678960 F +44 (0)1604 671021 E

  • At Winvic we believe in working closely with community to minimise any disturbance our works may cause and will be enrolling in the considerate constructor’s scheme to ensure only the highest standards are achieved.


As another element of our quality control, we aim to reduce the impact of our work on the neighbours by following the codes of practice set out in the Considerate Constructors Scheme [CCS], to which all Winvic projects are entered. This automatically measures how we deal with public questions and complaints.


Rough sleepers – how to get help for them

Following a resident request for information, here is how to get help for rough sleepers.

Oxford City Council commissions St Mungo’s Broadway to deliver an assertive outreach and reconnection service to those rough sleeping in the city of Oxford. This service is called Oxford Street Population Outreach Team (Oxford SPOT) and the team works 7 days per week, helping people rough sleeping in the city to access appropriate accommodation and support.

Please contact Oxford SPOT directly, rather than through the Council or your councillors, as this is the fastest way for a rough sleeper to get in touch with organisations that can help.

Oxford SPOT can be contacted via phone on 01865 304 611 or via e-mail at

Oxford SPOT will try to locate the person in order to offer assistance to access suitable accommodation and support. The team will also be able to advise of other services in the city that can offer help and assistance such as food and clothes, or sign-post to local organisations in the city that can help with employment, training and employment.

For more information about rough sleeping and the work that is done to tackle this in the city, please see the Frequently Asked Questions document here

Severe Weather Emergency Protocol

Oxford City Council has a protocol in place with local homelessness agencies to ensure that there is provision of extra bed spaces for rough sleepers during the cold winter months. The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) sets out a joint effort between Oxford City Council and homelessness agencies in Oxford city to take all possible steps to avoid deaths on the streets due to people sleeping rough during severe winter weather conditions.

SWEP is usually triggered when the night time temperature is forecast by the Met Office to drop to zero or below for three consecutive nights. The protocol is implemented on the first night of such a forecast.

In order to access this emergency provision, a person should satisfy the below criteria:

  • Be at risk if they continue to sleep rough during the course of the severe weather
  • Have nowhere to sleep indoors during the course of the severe weather
  • Agree to the assistance offered

The provision offered is very basic, generally consisting of a roll mat and a sleeping bag, but does mean that someone who might otherwise sleep rough on the streets of Oxford, is offered space indoors and out of the cold.

O’Hanlon House, one of the homeless hostels in the city, co-ordinates the provision and will allocate spaces in the other homeless hostels if O’Hanlon House reach its capacity.

When provision is open, rough sleepers and support agencies acting on their behalf should contact O’Hanlon House directly, before 4pm, on 01865 304 600 to make arrangements for access.

Wanted: your views on houses in multiple occupation

The City Council is currently consulting on the HMO licensing scheme in Oxford City and is proposing to renew the scheme.

Council staff want to reach as many residents as possible for their views. There will be a drop in session at the library where you can come and speak to a member of Council staff, find out more about the consultation and fill in a paper questionnaire if you want to.


28 July from 2pm to 4pm at Headington library


Residents can also fill out the questionnaire online via the main council webpage and clicking on the “open consultation” link.


Latest planning news

The latest planning applications have been uploaded here.

They relate to properties in Gardiner Street, Staunton Road, Windmill Road and the JR.

Ruth has called in the application to build student housing and maisonettes on the junction of Latimer Road and London Road for adjudication by East Area Planning Committee.

And just to show that repeated applications do get through eventually, the St Leonard’s Road one has been given delegated approval.


Demolition of existing store. Erection of 1 x 2-bed dwelling (Use Class C3).

Store Adjacent 79 St Leonard’s Road


Erection of a first floor side and rear extension.

190 Headley Way Oxford