Four London tower blocks due for refurbishment now face being demolished after engineers found worse-than-expected structural faults including a lack of resistance to “disproportionate collapse”.
The London Borough of Southwark has agreed in line with residents’ wishes to refurbish the four towers on the 224-home Ledbury Estate, although many other councils are to demolish their similar large panel system towers.
But a report by engineer Arup has now identified that essential work to give the towers another 50 years’ life is likely to cost far more than the £32m earmarked.
Arup said that the Ledbury towers “do not comply with the requirements for resistance against disproportionate collapse” while the floor panels do not meet gravity loading requirements. There are also concerns about wind resistance.
A report for next Tuesday’s cabinet meeting by Kieron Williams, cabinet member for housing management and modernisation at Southwark, recommended that this work is costed “and that the results are used to reopen the options appraisal process”.
Arup’s recommendations would “have a negative effect on the current estimated costs of around £8m per block”.
Danielle Gregory, co-founder of the Ledbury Action Group, said residents were left “pretty sombre” about the prospect of demolition being revived as an option following a meeting yesterday with Mr Williams.
She told Inside Housing that reopening the options appraisal “may mean demolition”.
Ms Gregory added: “We don’t know the costings for this now but it would be higher given the very significant issues.
“I think we know where this is headed [to demolition], and it has implications for other places with large panel systems.”
Ms Gregory said that if Southwark opts for demolition, residents would want it to “set a positive precedent” to other councils by ensuring no loss of social housing and a right for residents to return at the same rent levels as before.
She said: “Otherwise we could see a substantial loss of social housing if local authorities demolish these blocks and do not replace them.”
The Ledbury Estate was built in 1968-70 using the Taylor Woodrow Anglian large panel system.
Southwark became aware after a post-Grenfell public meeting on fire safety in June 2017 that thermal movement of the panels had damaged fire safety compartmentation.
Mr Williams’ report said Arup’s investigations in the estate’s empty Bromyard House identified essential works “more extensive than those previously proposed”.
Arup’s new recommendations include a frame of steel columns and beams built inside the flats from the eighth to the 13th floors, held together by a new structure on the roof.
It said the floors of each flat need strengthening, and a new foundation is required along with new insulation, lighter non-load bearing partitions and replacement of the stair and lift towers.