The future of a south London council estate is hanging in the balance after a new report revealed the structural stability of its tower blocks was far worse than originally thought
Last October, residents of Peckham’s Ledbury Estate voted against the demolition of their homes, prompting Southwark Council to investigate how to strengthen and refurbish the four high-rises.
The local authority’s decision to retain the towers came despite other councils having chosen to flatten similar blocks also built using the controversial Large Panel System (LPS) construction method.
However a detailed report by engineer Arup on one of the blocks – Bromyard House – has revealed that remediation works are likely to cost much more than the original costing of £32 million.
The report, which looked into the required work to extend the buildings’ lifespan by 50 years, found the towers did ‘not comply with the requirements for resistance against disproportionate collapse’.
A report going to Southwark’s cabinet tomorrow evening (29 October) recommends reopening the options appraisal process for the 224-home estate.
Glenn Holmes, a resident and member of Ledbury Action Group, said he feared the council would now forge ahead with demolishing the four blocks.
‘Sadly, with increased cost and complexity of the proposed works, we think it’s unlikely for the proposed strengthening to go ahead,’ he said. ‘Now is the chance for Southwark to build new world-class 100 per cent council homes within the Old Kent Road opportunity area in collaboration with and for the benefit of new and returning tenants.’
The Ledbury Estate tower blocks were built by Taylor Woodrow between 1968 and 1970 using the same construction method as Ronan Point, the east London tower block that collapsed in 1968 after a gas explosion, killing four people.
Following the disaster, the government ordered local authorities to check that LPS blocks were strengthened to withstand blast pressures. If not, the blocks had to have their gas supply removed.
However, checks carried out in the wake of Grenfell Tower fire revealed that the Ledbury Estate still had gas connected and had not been strengthened to the required standard.
According to the council report, 165 of 190 council homes are now empty as a sizeable number of residents had taken the option to be rehoused while the flats were refurbished.
The Arup report recommends:
- A new frame for the block from the 8th to 13th floor, held together by a new structure on the roof. The frame would be made up of steel columns and beams built inside the flats, and this would mean that rooms would be smaller when residents returned to their homes.
- The floors of each flat are strengthened, which will reduce the ceiling height in each property.
- A new foundation is cast over the existing foundation to the block.
- The external panels have their outer leaves replaced with a lighter version and, at the same time, the polystyrene insulation is replaced with a different form of insulation.
- The non-loadbearing partitions (for example the walls between the kitchens and living rooms) are replaced with lighter partitions.
- The stair and lift tower are demolished and replaced.