Infestation of vermin and maggots are only a few of the issues which have been reported at UWE’s city centre student accommodation.
Marketgate, which is owned by Unite, is located behind Cabot Circus in a refurbished BT office block, and has become synonymous with the Bristol student party scene.
Unite accommodation is well known among prospective students, operating in several locations throughout Bristol, as well as the rest of the UK.
Marketgate has 490 flats, with Unite offering accommodation for a massive 2800 students in Bristol alone.
The prospect of university life and all it has to offer brings forth both feelings of excitement and uncertainty for many students. They are faced with their first foray into adulthood, where one of the most difficult decisions students inevitably have to make involves accommodation options and living arrangements.
Many students arrive at Marketgate year upon year with high expectations of the time ahead. The location could not be more convenient, the furnishings are fairly modern and there is a basement, which provides additional facilities such as a pool table.
However, students have found in recent times that expectations are not necessarily met and experiences can be quite different indeed.
Upon arrival at Marketgate, students hope to receive a warm welcome from staff, and a good standard of cleanliness within their bedrooms and communal areas.
For one resident in particular, Vicky Wallace, this was not the case.
Entering her kitchen, Vicky told WesternEye of how she was greeted by a nasty smell in her freezer. With closer inspection, she found meat that had been residing in a small compartment throughout the summer, manifesting into a nest of maggots.
Regional Manager Alan Blackmore told WesternEye, “We use contracted cleaners to carry out the intensive cleaning throughout the summer, and unfortunately this isolated incident was a human error.
“All the main electrical units are switched off during the summer months for energy saving, therefore escalating this problem”.
Needless to say this was reported and acted on within the hour, resulting in a new freezer being placed and the old one disposed of.
It has also been reported that Marketgate currently has a housing issue with mice, which have been sighted on various floors throughout the complex. Facilities company Mitie are said to be dealing with the situation.
Miss Wallace spoke of how she had been standing in her kitchen one day when across the floor ran a mouse, scuttling into a nearby hole underneath the cupboards.
Since WesternEye’s meeting with Miss Wallace, the pest controllers have been to the flat to investigate the problem alongside manager Steve Glew who laid more traps throughout the night.
Mr Blackmore further went on to say “we are dealing with the problem and taking this matter seriously”.
Miss Wallace also told of how, upon the resident’s arrival at the flat, a number of superficial issues within the communal kitchen area had to be dealt with, such as a missing cupboard door, a part of the work surface torn off and burn marks on the work tops.
When questioned regarding said issues, Mr Blackmore stated: “The stockists are awaiting delivery of cupboard doors, and it is taking a while.” Once more, since WesternEye’s visit, the whole worktop area had been replaced, and contact had been made with stockists to chase up on the delivery.
However, matters did end there as one morning, residents were woken by the sounding of the fire alarms, a familiar story within student halls.
On said morning, Miss Wallace and her flatmates told of how they used the emergency exit within the flat, a magnetised door that is released upon the sounding of the alarm, which opens up to a stairwell leading out of the main fire exit and, eventually, to the evacuation point outside the building.
As Miss Wallace and her housemates reached the door they were shocked to find that it had been padlocked, leaving them trapped inside the building.
During the commotion it had not been realised that the padlock, which remains there for safety reasons, stopping members of the public from gaining access to the building, can be opened by using the ‘break glass’ tube that holds the bolt in its place. By using the small metal hammer beside this bolt, residents are able to break this glass tube and ultimately get out of the building.
Unite stated that they have recently started making signs with clear instructions of how to break this glass tube in the event of a fire so as to not cause distress to residents in future. They also stated that emails would be sent across residents’ inboxes, explaining the procedure.
Miss Wallace also experienced an incident within the flat whereby the repair of a broken shower by an on-site maintenance man consequently resulted in a burst pipe the following morning. It had drained water from the above flats, causing a leak through the corridors and into her bedroom.
Mr Blackmore, who joined as the Regional Manager eleven months ago, has overseen the installation of two brand new lifts costing £700,000, alongside refurbishments such as the re-painting and carpeting of half the building, with brand new furniture also replacing the tired furnishings in many of the flats.
He stated: “The refurbishment has taken place due to its general life cycle and to upgrade the standards. There will be further refurbishment plans for this coming summer.”
Mr Blackmore also hopes to initiate monthly kitchen inspections and to introduce the student halls reps programme, and is said to be working closely with the Students’ Union on the matter.
UWE Accommodation Services also added that “UWE were closely involved with the pre-inspections this year and were able to see the refurbishment that has taken place. We have had positive feedback from students at all Unite sites that UWE is involved with.”
Accommodation is a big expense and Unite cannot afford to take their position for granted as students may start to look further afield if the trust between tenant and landlord is tarnished.
Miss Wallace added: “It seems ridiculous we are paying £121 per week for the privilege of living somewhere that clearly has such little regard for health and safety standards.”
Although Marketgate has received negative feedback over the years, this could well be the push needed in order to improve facilities and customer service roles. Although one might assume that actions may have been pressed forward due to WesternEye’s involvement, it must be said that, from being escorted around the building by Mr Blackmore, the aesthetics of the building did seem in good order throughout and although Marketgate is a work in progress it perhaps still has a little way to go yet.