Hundreds of social tenants to be moved from tower block homes

Tenants from opposite ends of the country are being moved from their homes over concerns that the tower blocks where they live are either becoming too costly to maintain or they are unsafe.

In north-east England, Thirteen housing association which owns around 34,000 homes in the Tees Valley, has announced it will be demolishing five of its 18 tower blocks. The blocks’ 346 flats will be replaced by 100 new homes on sites in Thornaby and Middlesbrough. Residents will be moved out over the next 18 to 24 months and helped into their new homes by a specialist relocation co-ordinator. A spokesman said a review of its high-rise stock concluded the investment needed to maintain the five buildings “is not sustainable and could also lead to significantly increased service charges for tenants”. It insisted the blocks are fully compliant with building and fire safety regulations. All five were built in the 1960s using large panel system construction methods, the same building type used at Ronan Point in Newham, which killed four people in a partial collapse in 1968 following a gas explosion. A spokesperson said Thirteen does not have any further demolition plans for its other tower blocks but intends to retrofit them with sprinkler systems. Ian Wardle, chief executive of Thirteen, said: “This news will come as a shock to those living in these flats and we can assure them that it is not a decision that has been taken lightly. It is important to stress that all our high-rise buildings are safe and meet all the relevant standards and requirements. This decision has not been made because of safety concerns.”

Structural concerns

Down on the south coast residents are to be moved out of two Portsmouth tower blocks to allow strengthening works to be completed, after structural investigations found the two 18-storey buildings’ concrete was “not as strong as expected”, Horatia House and Leamington House, owned by Portsmouth City Council, are home to around 800 people. The blocks were built using the Bison system of large panel construction – the same as that used at two high rise tower blocks in Rugby where the council has taken similar measures. The two blocks had dangerous ACM cladding removed last year following the Grenfell Tower fire. The structural issues were discovered while the council was looking to replace the cladding. Residents of the 272 flats will not be evacuated immediately but will be moved out once suitable new homes are found. It is expected to be spring 2019 before all residents have left the blocks, with “extra security measures” introduced in the interim. Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Liberal Democrat leader of the council said: “It is very important that people realise there is no immediate danger from day-to-day living in the buildings but, as our number one priority is resident safety, we are starting the process of moving people to new homes.” There are five other council-owned LPS blocks in Portsmouth, but the authority said it has no concerns about these following structural surveys.

Meanwhile North Ayrshire Council in Scotland has decided to demolish five tower blocks in Irvine after a majority of residents voted in favour of the proposal. But two other blocks in Saltcoats were reprieved and instead will be fitted with water sprinkler systems. A rehousing strategy will see the Irvine residents rehoused in “high-quality” homes on the site and elsewhere in the area. Joe Cullinane, leader of the council, said: “From the outset, we said we would listen to what the residents wanted and that is reflected in the decisions made.”