Council set to decommission Edmonton tower blocks after residents vote to leave

The two blocks had their gas supplies switched off after they were found to be unsafe, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Shropshire House (left) and Cheshire House (right) could both be demolished
Shropshire House (left) and Cheshire House (right) could both be demolished

Two Edmonton tower blocks where gas supplies had to be switch off over safety fears are set to be taken out of use – and likely demolished.

Senior councillors have agreed to decommission Cheshire House and Shropshire House at Shires Estate, Edmonton, after more than three quarters of residents who responded to a survey said they wanted to leave the estate.

The council plans to rehouse residents within a year and has pledged to start discussions as soon as possible with leaseholders “to ensure the timely buy-back of their properties”.

Built in the 1960s using the cut-price large panel method of construction, the two 18-storey tower blocks failed structural safety tests carried out following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and were deemed to be at risk of collapse in the event of a gas explosion.

The council previously planned to connect both blocks to its district heat network, Energetik, and the date for switching off the gas supply was extended from June this year to January next year.

But in November, the gas supply to Cheshire House had to be cut off urgently after a leak was discovered. The council subsequently announced it planned to switch off the supply to Shropshire House by the end of February.

The civic centre’s handling of the safety issues has been heavily criticised by Conservative opposition councillors – who previously called on cabinet member for housing George Savva to quit over the issue – as well as Edmonton’s Labour MP Kate Osamor.

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During a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, members of the council’s Labour administration agreed to decommission the blocks “subject to the safe rehousing of all residents”. According to a council report, there are almost 200 people currently living in the blocks.

The decision, which is subject to a call-in from the overview and scrutiny committee, came after a four-week engagement exercise carried out during February and March found 76% of the 115 residents who responded wanted to leave the estate and only 11% wanted to stay.

Many expressed the need for significant repairs, highlighting mould, damp and leakages throughout their properties, while other concerns included a “significant increase in antisocial behaviour”.

Council reports state that keeping the blocks in a state of safe repair over 30 years would cost around £53million, with £40m needing to be spent during the next three years. This would place a “considerable financial burden” on leaseholders and reduce funds available to be invested in other council homes.

Moving people out and decommissioning the blocks would cost significantly less – estimated at £16.7m – and was said to be the “only viable and feasible option”.

The council says dedicated officers will be deployed to support residents to identify their housing options and to help them move home, with priority given to the most vulnerable who may need extra support. It has pledged to provide access to legal and surveying costs associated with buybacks for leaseholders, who will also be helped to move.

Cllr Savva told Wednesday’s meeting that the report would provide residents with “certainty about the future” and “protect the investment for the rest of the homes across the borough”. He added that demolition of the blocks would be considered.

Joanne Drew, the council’s director of housing and regeneration, said officers were “very confident” that residents of the blocks had understood the options, pointing out that during the engagement exercise literature had been translated into the languages of those who did not speak English.

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