Students from Keble college have reported serious safety and welfare issues concerning the ongoing construction of the H.B. Allen Centre.
Members of the college have complained of physical injury, the creation of an unsafe environment for women in the accommodation and unmitigated risk as a result of activity on the site.
Intended to house nearly 200 graduate students from a variety of courses, the development of the HBAC has already seen previous controversy. At the start of Michaelmas this year, construction of the accommodation was not complete, meaning many students were moved multiple times between hotels far from campus.
In some cases, students had to move more than five times in the middle of term, with the average occupant moving at least twice. Whilst notice was given, students were only allowed three days to prepare to vacate their room to allow construction to continue.
It took until February 2019 to for all students allocated the accommodation to gain access to their rooms. Building work is still in progress across the site. The end-of-construction date has reportedly been extended multiple times, meaning the initially scheduled move-in date was 5 months overdue.
One student was struck on the head by a chunk of plastic thrown by a construction worker, whilst another injured her foot, following the collapse of a poorly fitted piece of furniture.
In addition to this, the Porters’ Lodge sent an email to residents, warning them to “be extremely careful when crossing over the Quad” as “due to the high wind, the barriers and the matting are being blown around causing Flying [sic] objects.”
The email continued: “For your own safety please avoid using the Quad tonight.” Aside from immediate physical risk, student welfare has been allegedly threatened by dangerous noise levels and frequent obscene remarks from workers on the site.
Students occupying the accommodation have shared videos of loud, invasive noise from building plant, continuing every week day between 7.30am and 5pm.
At times, decibel levels of 97dB were recorded, a figure louder than a Boeing 737 flyover. It is estimated in industrial noise control regulations that 80dB can damage hearing over an extended period of time.
As well as offensive comments being heard by students, which reportedly rendered their live/study environment hostile and unsafe, countless invasions of privacy are said to have occurred, with workers in front of stu- dent windows every day.
Maintenance workers have also entered student rooms without consent, in order to resolve issues stemming from poor construction.
In response to the failure to improve unsuitable conditions, Keble college offered 50% rent reductions between September and January, with a 20% reduction in February. However, Trinity term residents are expected to pay 100% of the contract-agreed rent.
A petition has been circulated by students who claim that living conditions do still not justify complete payment: “It is clear that the current status of the H B Allen Centre construction and the living conditions within the H B Allen Centre accommodation have not significantly improved to a state where paying full rent would be justified (in some cases the state has worsened).
“The building and complex are far from completion, construction noise continues to disrupt abilities to work and sleep, the promised gym facilities are non-existent and safety/security concerns abound.
“Please sign this petition if you are dissatisfied with the current state of HBAC and do not feel you should have to pay 100% rent for what is clearly not 100% of the H B Allen Centre we signed up for.”
Keble College has been contacted for comment.