Lowestoft’s only high-rise flats are to be demolished.
Residents of St Peter’s Court will be rehoused, after East Suffolk District Council took the decision – citing a hike in maintenance costs.
Built in the 1960s, the flats have been a familiar part of the town’s skyline – but work to flatten the site could start later next year.
The building has been undergoing an extensive improvement programme, and as part of this, a full survey of the building indicated that a further ongoing programme of repair and refurbishment would be required.
The estimates indicate an initial cost of £8,835,088 in year one and an average cost over 30 years of £8,652 per year, per dwelling. This equates to £23,361,239 investment over 30 years to keep the building safe, compliant, and to a habitable standard, based only on today’s building safety regulations and not considering future amendments.
Over the next 30 years the building would generate a deficit of -£2.5m significantly reducing the Council’s ability to invest in the rest of the stock or continue to renew homes.
Comparatively, initial estimates suggest a new build medium-density scheme on the same site could provide a return on investment after 25 years. A regeneration project team will now be created to consider all potential options for the site and these will be presented to the Cabinet for consideration in due course.
The Council will now begin a managed process, in a carefully planned way to move residents into new accommodation over the next 12 months and then demolish the building.
Councillor David Beavan, Cabinet Member for Housing said: “The last thing we wanted to do in a housing crisis was knock down 90 of our council flats, but we have little choice. Ballpark figures are that we could spend £9m getting St Peters up to the required standard and give tenants another 10 years in their homes, albeit disrupted by building works.
“Or we bite the bullet, making the difficult decision to demolish, then deliver new sustainable council homes to rent for another 100 years. We don’t want to kick this can down the road for another administration to sort out. We are not afraid to take this hard decision in the best interests of Lowestoft people.”
Ahead of the decision being taken, all residents were invited to drop-in sessions to learn more about the issues and were asked for their views on proposals including undertaking the necessary works. More residents expressed a preference for demolition and, overall, two-thirds either supported this approach or would be content whatever decision was taken.
Councillor Beavan continued: “We know that these are not just bricks and mortar but homes to 60 families. I spent two days talking to tenants the other week. The Court was once a great community, held in affection by local people, but tenants realise that its time has come. I guarantee that all tenants will be offered alternative appropriate social housing In Lowestoft. Nobody is going to be exiled unless they want to move.
“This is just one example of problems we have inherited in East Suffolk housing but our determination to increase safe, secure and affordable housing by 500 in our four year administration is undiminished. We will deal with the East Suffolk housing crisis by hook or by crook. Our housing team is up for the challenge. Watch this space.”
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