Nearly £7m has been spent on safety measures and interim heating at a London estate where major safety issues were identified in the aftermath of the Grenfell tower disaster.
A Freedom of Information Act request response released to a tenants’ organisation shows £6.8m has been spent at the Ledbury Estate in Southwark since concerns were raised in July.
The major costs include £1.3m spent on staffing fire marshals, £420,000 on installing temporary immersion heaters and £3.6m on installing a new district heating system.
Southwark turned the gas off at the estate in August, after an expert report in July revealed it was at risk of partial collapse in the event of an explosion.
The blocks were built using the controversial ‘large panel system’ method of construction – which involved effectively stacking large blocks on top of one another and was widely discredited following the Ronan Point disaster in 1968.
Large cracks in the flats were also thought to put the block at risk in the event of a fire, as it may have been able to spread between floors.
The document released to Southwark Group of Tenants’ Organisations shows that the council spent:
Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for housing at Southwark Council, said: “We are dealing with an unprecedented situation and as such we had no expectations or budget in mind. What has been our first and foremost priority is the safety and comfort of those residents directly affected by the situation on the Ledbury Estate.
“Making sure our homes, especially our high-rise blocks, are safe has to be our main concern and we will continue to both look at the best ways to achieve this and ask the government to consider financial support for councils who are facing similar circumstances.”
Cris Claridge, chair of the SGTO, said: "Of course residents’ safety has to be put before cost concerns. But every penny that is spent on fire safety is a penny redirected from other vital housing services, like repairs, maintenance and the building of new council homes. Unless central government can properly fund safety measures, it is ultimately tenants who will have to foot the bill."
A spokesperson from the Ledbury Action Group, a campaign group set up by a group of resident volunteers, described the refurbishment and fire safety costs as “eye watering”.
“This money came from the council’s Housing Revenue Account, which has a knock on effect on the rest of the borough,” they said.
“If [the council] had maintained the buildings over the years then it wouldn’t have had to spend these huge sums now.”
Many similar buildings were strengthened after the disaster but Southwark Council has been unable to find evidence of this work for the Ledbury Estate.
Other landlords with large panel blocks are currently also beginning to deal with the issues. Last week, it was revealed Haringey had removed gas cookers from the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, while gas is still running to an estate in Lewisham but will be disconnected in the New Year.