Tower block residents could be given new homes
Councillors in Rugby are to be asked to approve a recommendation that would see all tenants who live at the multi-storey flats at Biart Place given alternative accommodation.
This is so that the blocks can be repaired or replaced. If approved, tenants will be found new homes that meet their needs, and would also be given compensation for the time, trouble and inconvenience.
A report to a meeting of the council to be held on Tuesday (24 April) explains that the recommendation is based on the results of extensive survey work commissioned on all of the multi-storey blocks in late 2016 to establish their potential future lifespan and investment requirements, with further more detailed surveys over the last six months. The surveys found that the blocks are of Bison large panel system construction and were built in or around 1968, but had been built to a poor standard and may not perform as expected in the event of a fire or explosion.
The surveys found that:
- connections between concrete panels were not well constructed and linking steel work is not always properly connected to the structure;
- dry packed concrete under some dividing walls was of poor quality;
- steel reinforcement is starting to corrode and while the corrosion is limited to the surface of the steel this will deteriorate in time;
- concrete in critical areas is suffering from carbonation, or concrete cancer, reducing its strength;
- strengthening steel angles that should have been added shortly after the flats were built could not be located in some of the flats that were inspected.
However, further work also shows that the structure of the blocks would maintain fire resistance in accordance with British Standards and could also resist structural wind loadings. The risk of fire or explosion is substantially reduced because there is no gas supply, and portable gas appliances are banned under the tenancy agreement. A recent change to a full fire evacuation policy has also reduced the risk to residents.
Results of survey work on the multi-story blocks at Rounds Gardens are not yet complete, but early indications are that the issues are not as serious and potential remediation measures are not the same as for Biart Place.
A spokesman for Rugby Borough Council said: “The multi-storey blocks have stood safely since they were built around fifty years ago, and all previous fires within the blocks have been contained as designed.
“However, while we don’t yet know whether the blocks at Biart Place can be repaired or will have to be replaced, we do know that any repair work that would address the construction problems would be very disruptive and could not be carried out while the flats are occupied.
Since we are going to have to find new homes for our tenants either way, we are asking councillors to allow us to press ahead and make all of the necessary arrangements as soon as possible. It is very important that we are able to give our tenants certainty and are able to work with them to find new homes.”
Council officers have already visited residents of the blocks to understand the makeup of each household and any specific needs that they may have, which has provided valuable information that will help the council to allocate new homes.
Of the 124 flats at Biart Place, 90 are currently occupied. These residents will be entitled to similar accommodation that meets their needs and a continuing secure tenancy where relevant.
The agenda and reports for the meeting to be held on 24 April can be found at www.rugby.gov.uk.
The background reports that led to the recommendation will be published in due course, while a report to councillors later this year will outline options for the repair of the blocks or the potential for regeneration of the site.