Biart Place towers to be demolished

THE high-rise blocks at Biart Place are likely to be demolished and replaced with new council housing.

Initial work on costings has found that the tower blocks are beyond economic repair, with repairs estimated at £20million compared to replacement costing an estimated £23million.

A report to be considered by councillors on Thursday 27 September recommends that work starts on appointing architects to design a replacement development that will make best use of the site.

A previous report to councillors in April 2018 explained that surveys carried out to understand future maintenance needs showed that the blocks are constructed from the large panel system and are of poor build quality. It explained that the concrete is poor quality and suffering from carbonation, while steelwork is corroding. Connections are incomplete and strengthening steel work is missing from some areas. However, the blocks would maintain fire resistance and recent changes to fire evacuation policies have reduced the risk to tenants. That report highlighted a series of measures designed to ensure the safety and security of the council’s tenants.

91 of the 124 flats at Biart Place are now vacant and the blocks are on course to be completely empty before the target date of March next year.

With respect to the blocks at Rounds Gardens, the report explains that the blocks are of better construction than those at Biart Place. Surveys have found that:

• structural connections between walls and floors are generally well-formed and in place;
• the concrete is in better condition than at Biart Place, with an anticipated life-span of more than 30 years;
• floors and walls vary in thickness across their length and the effect of these non-conformities on the structure is not yet known.

The report recommends that councillors allocate funding for further structural surveys to these blocks so that options for repair or replacement can be better understood. They have also been recommended to allocate funds for additional fire alarm systems to be fitted at Rounds Gardens, in line with a recommendation from Warwickshire Fire and Rescue service.

Cllr Michael Stokes, Leader of Rugby Borough Council, said: “The multi-storey blocks at Rounds Gardens and at Biart Place have stood safely since they were built around fifty years ago, but it is disappointing to find that the build quality has been poor.

“While we never wanted to be in the position of undertaking such extensive strengthening or replacement work, we now have an opportunity to use the Biart Place site to provide council housing that better meets the needs of current and future tenants.

“Whatever the final decision on Rounds Gardens, the total costs for both sites could reach £60million. While the council has options to cover these costs they were not anticipated and they will have an impact. However, the safety and peace of mind of our tenants must come first and is not an area where I am willing to take risks. I will be asking the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for their support to mitigate this impact.”

The agenda and reports for the meeting to be held on 27 September can be found at www.rugby.gov.uk/highrise 

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