A FIRM at the centre of a row over a student halls not ready in time for term has been accused of ‘treating people with absolute contempt’.
Stanhope House operator Prime Student Living came under fire from councillors at Portsmouth City Council over the month-long delay at the £30m block as they accused it of being ‘cavalier’.
This week The News revealed the Manchester-based firm, which shares offices and some directors with developer Crosslane Student Developments, said it only knew there was going to be a delay at the 256-bed tower on August 27.
But politicians poured scorn on managing director Steve Goldstraw’s explanations as he admitted the contract had already been extended to September 6.
Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘If you have a building and you’ve got someone to contract - and we’ve seen this going up - and you’re not noticing something wasn’t going right until the 27th of August when you see minutes (of a meeting) - my goodness me you need some lessons on project management and being a decent landlord.’
Speaking at the full council meeting on Tuesday, Tory group leader Donna Jones said one student had paid £3,000 at the end of August. She said: ‘They took that money from him knowing that they weren’t going to be able to fulfil their contractual commitment.’
At around 2pm yesterday about 10 students people gathered outside the Commercial Road site protesting over the delay.
Among them was Berkshire-based Manisha Singh, 22, who is studying a Master's degree in criminal psychology with intelligence but has been staying in a hotel instead of her studio room at Stanhope.
She said: 'I haven't even eaten my own food for five weeks.
'I've got deadlines coming up and the fact is they're not really understanding how we're feeling.
'I've probably put on a lot of weight, it's just been horrible.
'All my stuff is in storage. None of this should have happened.'
And the effect on students brought strong words from councillors. Councillor Matthew Winnington branded the issue ‘absolutely outrageous’ and said the firm was ‘treating people with absolute contempt’.
Councillors unanimously agreed its chief executive should write to Prime. They said the authority should press the government to regulate private student accommodation and consider such developments in the local plan.
Outside the meeting Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said: 'I will not leave any stone left unturned when it comes to students’ academic futures, the Portsmouth community and the taxpayers’ purse.’
Prime director Mr Goldstraw told councillors in a letter the firm ‘refute(s)’ the allegation of being cavalier.
Some students staying in hotels were due to move into the tower on Wednesday. Contractor RGB Group denies it is to blame for the delay.
The council motion said: ‘Council is disappointed by the cavalier attitude of the company to deal with this issue properly.’