Plans to carry out essential structural and improvement works on the Balmoral tower blocks will be discussed by cabinet next week.
A joint report from Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and South Essex Homes recommends a programme of works takes place to improve the resilience of the building, whilst also improving energy efficiency.
The report also recommends agreeing a £2.325 million budget to be funded from the HRA Capital Investment Reserve and consultation and engagement with residents on how best to go about doing the work.
It applies to the three tower blocks on the Balmoral Estate along Salisbury Avenue and Balmoral Road; Grampian, Beacon and Blackdown, and follows planned structural surveys that take place across the council’s housing stock.
These surveys advised that given the construction style of the blocks and recent Government guidance, further tests should be carried out to see if the blocks could be modified to improve floor and wall resilience in the unlikely event of an explosion.
The further structural investigations have recommended strengthening measures to the top three storeys to meet current recommendations.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council with a responsibility for housing, said: “As the years pass, new building regulations and guidance are issued nationally and we have a duty to make sure our properties are as safe as possible for those who live in them.
“Regular structural surveys of the council’s housing stock have recommended this work and led to this report.
“It is worth emphasising that the surveys have confirmed that the blocks are not unsafe, do not require immediate work, and they all have central heating and cooking facilities not supplied by gas, which significantly lowers the potential risk.
“However, we want all of our residents to feel safe in their homes, and this essential work will strengthen the top three storeys of each tower block, which affects 18 homes in each block, so 54 in total.
“Each of these properties needs to be empty for the work to be done. We have written to all residents to tell them that this work is being considered, and if approved, we will work closely those directly affected in the 54 flats and all other residents in the blocks to find the easiest and least intrusive way for the work to be completed.”
A pilot project on an empty property was carried out, and it took four weeks to do the necessary work which included:
- fitting steel angle cleats.
- safe asbestos removal.
- reinstatement of wall and floor finishes and install larger skirting boards.
- remedial works to fitted bathrooms and kitchen units.
Additional work was also identified to improve the structural insulation and upgrade the heating system to improve the energy efficiency of the buildings.
If the report is agreed and the project given the go ahead, work could start in February 2021, with the work taking place on a block by block basis, and one floor at a time. The work across all three blocks will be programmed over a period of two years.
The report also highlights that this work is only needed in the three specified tower blocks, not in the other ten towers in the borough and the work is not in any way connected with the post Grenfell Tower recommendations.