Future of Ledbury Estate Blocks Now Uncertain
On Thursday 24th October 2019, Southwark shared the long-awaited detailed structural report by ARUP engineers, which lays out a design for strengthening and refurbishing the Ledbury Estate tower blocks.
In 2017, it was discovered that the four Large Panel System blocks did not meet the building regulations for resistance to disproportionate collapse and would need to be strengthened. Southwark Council passed a motion at Cabinet in October 2018 agreeing with the vote by residents to strengthen and refurbish the blocks. This was reported at the time in both local and national press.
However, a more detailed design report has now been released by ARUP - their brief was to design a solution to bring the towers up to meet the building regulations, and give them an additional 50 year lifespan. The new plans detail a significantly increased amount of remedial work, and as such, Southwark Council have opted to re-open the Options Appraisal process.
Southwark Council's Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr. Kieron Williams, wrote the following in the foreword to the ARUP report, and in advance of an emergency item on Cabinet agenda for 29th October:
KEY ISSUES FOR CONSIDERATION
The Arup report on the works required to strengthen the blocks to give them at least a 50 year life was received on Thursday 24 October 2019
The recommendations in the Arup report include:
• A new frame for the block from the 8th to 13th floor, held together by a new structure on the roof. The frame will be made up of steel columns and beams built inside the flats, and this would mean that rooms would be smaller when residents return to their homes after the refurbishment works are completed.
• 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 replacing the polystyrene insulation with a different form of insulation.
• The non loading bearing partitions (for example the walls between the kitchens and living rooms) will need to be replaced with lighter partitions.
• The stair and lift tower will need to be demolished and replaced.
These recommendations for extensive works have been made to give the blocks a further 50 year life. The blocks currently remain safe for residents due to the mitigations that have been put in place, which include the removal of gas, the presence of the 24 hour waking watch, and the physical protection around the block.
The recommendations from Arup will have to be costed and it is clear that this will
have a negative effect on the current estimated costs of around £8 million per block.
The new design proposals will now need to be re-costed, and the figures are expected from the council's cost consultants, Calford Seadon, in late November. What's already clear is that the costs will far exceed the original estimates. We will continue to update as the situation develops.