Posted February 26, 2024

Council Considers Demolition Instead Of Fire Safety Upgrades

Residents in a Harlow apartments block are facing the prospect of relocation as Harlow Council considers the option of demolition, deeming it more economically viable than the £5.5 million required for fire safety upgrades recommended post-Grenfell.

Harlow Council confronts a challenging decision as it ponders the demolition of a complete apartment block due to the substantial cost of essential fire safety measures following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, estimated at £5.5 million. Having already invested £300,000 based on fire service advice, the council grapples with the dilemma of potential relocation as an alternative to shouldering the significant expense.

Council Leader Dan Swords acknowledges the seriousness of the situation, citing the need for safety reviews prompted by the Grenfell tragedy. However, he emphasises the considerable financial burden associated with potentially making the flats safe. The decision, slated for discussion by government in February 2024, could lead to the gradual relocation of residents.

Among the 54 homes under consideration, 34 are occupied by leaseholders, including 14 private renters, and 15 are home to council tenants. The remaining five homes are currently vacant. Mr. Swords describes the situation as “absolutely devastating” for those affected, noting that the matter has been under scrutiny since initial inspections in December 2020.

“The latest advice is that, in order to bring them to a potentially safe standard – but there’s no guarantee – we would have to spend in excess of £5.5 million,” Mr. Swords explains. This would translate to a bill of over £110,000 for each leaseholder, a prospect considered impractical by the council.

The council argues that undertaking necessary works would cause significant disruption and suggests that relocating residents and demolishing the buildings may be a more cost-effective solution. Previous works on the flats included installing a full fire detection system, new recycling bin stores, and closing the car parking beneath the flats. However, maintaining a 24/7 surveillance system incurred a weekly bill of £4,000.

Investigations of vacant homes revealed the need for extensive upgrades to the entire wall system and structure, complicated further by the presence of asbestos. If the report recommending demolition is approved, residents would receive support and financial compensation, with tenants given the highest priority for other council homes.

Acknowledging the difficult and unsettling time for residents, Mr. Swords reiterates the unique challenges posed by the situation at Sycamore Field. Independent specialists advise that spending well over £5.5 million on further works may not guarantee the block’s adequate protection, raising concerns about potential future requirements. The council is now tasked with deciding the most sensible course of action for the residents and the affected properties.

Older buildings can cause additional complications when undertaking a fire risk assessment. The importance of regular ongoing fire safety measure considerations from new build to end of life should always be considered. Regardless of teh age of your location the team at SS Systems is here to provide input and guide you through the process. Call one of our team for a discussion on fire safety and the fire risk assessment process.

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