Consultation in Preston today: Demolition of three tower blocks in Avenham proposed by Onward Homes Housing Association

The first of three drop-in events will be held today as part of a consultation on the future of three of Preston's landmark high rise Avenham tower blocks.

By Fiona Finch
Tuesday, 22nd February 2022, 4:55 am

The three blocks on the Queen Street estate, near Newman College, are run by regional housing association Onward Homes and had external cladding removed following the Grenfell Tower disaster in London.

The two options being considered for the buildings are demolition or refurbishment - with demolition the association's preferred option.

The housing association is now asking residents to share their views on the redevelopment plans for the Richmond, Lincoln and Carlisle House blocks which were built in the 1960s and are located near the Avenham Lane/ Manchester Road junction.

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Demolish or refurb? The future of these Avenham tower blocks, including Carlisle House (pictured centre) is uncertain. Photo: Neil Cross

Onward said that while safe, the removal of cladding has revealed "additional structural challenges" and the flats could be liable to damp and mould problems. It said: "The tower blocks require investment to ensure that these meet the future needs of residents and provide modern, comfortable homes for years to come. Onward has explored various options for the long-term future of the tower blocks and how these can be modernised."

Onward Homes says the preferred option is to replace the flats with "new, improved homes" noting: "Demolition and replacement with new homes will allow for better quality, sustainable homes to be delivered that are better suited to the needs of residents. Due to the design and ongoing challenges with the tower blocks, refurbishment would be unlikely to deliver the scale of improvements required and is not considered to be a sustainable long-term option."

A spokesperson emphasised that no final decision would be made until the spring, following consultation with residents.

The public consultation will run until March 18.

Future uncertain - demolition is one of the options for three Avenham tower blocks Photo: Neil Cross

If demolition gets the go-ahead residents would need rehousing and could not be guaranteed a home in the replacement properties but Onward Homes said it would ask the city council if "former tenants from Carlisle House, Lincoln House and Richmond House are given priority to bid on any new social housing that is built as part of the Avenham and Queen Street regeneration plans."

It has also suggested another option would be to register on Preston Council’s choice-based lettings system.

The housing association's consultation website notes: "Following the Grenfell fire in June 2017, there has been increased scrutiny on the safety of all tower blocks. As a responsible landlord, we have also been looking at the safety and long-term future of our tower blocks. Over the past year, our focus has been on the removal of cladding from the tower blocks to ensure the safety of our homes. The removal of the cladding has however revealed some additional structural challenges within the blocks. As well as reduced thermal efficiency, tower blocks of this type often suffer with issues of damp and mould. The design and nature of these buildings means that they can be difficult to adapt, change or upgrade to meet modern standards.

"Against these challenges, we have been considering if we can improve the condition of the tower blocks to provide high quality, modern homes that are adapted to resident needs. We have also been considering other alternative options."

The flats date back to the 1960s. Photo: Neil Cross

While offering reassurance that the properties are "completely safe" with the removal of the external cladding increasing residents' safety Onward warns of practical and financial challenges ahead and advised: " To comply with new fire safety standards, any refurbishment scheme would require the installation of a new sprinkler system to each flat and common areas.Whilst the tower blocks currently meet all health and safety requirements, these requirements could change. If they do change, we will have to comply with any new requirements that come forward, but they could be very expensive for us to implement and prevent us from making other improvements to the tower blocks."

Tenants would be entitled to payments comprising a home loss payment, set by the Government which is currently £7,100 per household and also possibly a disturbance payment to help with moving costs.

Sandy Livingstone, Executive Director for Property at Onward, said: “We are committed to sustained investment in the Queen Street estate and Avenham neighbourhoods to deliver major improvements to the area in the years ahead. An important part of this programme is the future of the three tower blocks on the estate. The tower blocks face ongoing challenges and require improvements to ensure that the buildings meet the needs of residents in the future. Having been built in the 1960s, there is now an opportunity to modernise these properties and provide new, improved homes within walking distance of Preston ... We understand that residents will have questions about the proposals so would encourage them to get in touch and share their views.”

The deadline for comments is 5pm on Friday, March 18.

Preston landmarks - the Avenham flats dominate the local skyline. Photo: Neil Cross

Residents have been invited to submit feedback via the consultation website at www.onwardpreston.co.uk where more information is available or to email comments or questions to [email protected]

Onward’s Customer Contact Centre can also be called on 0300 555 0600

Three public drop-in events will take place at The Foxton Centre (PR1 3SA), when residents' questions will be answered and feedback forms will be available. The sessions are on today, Tuesday 22nd February from 1pm – 6pm; Thursday 24th February from 3pm – 8pm and Saturday 26th February from 11am – 4pm.

* The Post has asked Onward Homes to advise how many new homes would be created on the site of the three blocks, how many residents would be accommodated and how much the modernisation of existing blocks would cost.

* Onward Homes owns and manages 35,000 social housing properties across the north west. It manages 700 homes in the Queen Street area, including the tower blocks. The association is a Homes England Strategic Partner and has been allocated a £152m grant from the Affordable Homes Programme (AHP) and has plans to build 5,000 homes by 2030.

* Plans for new high rises in Preston on site of Avenham car park see here* For more plans for the Avenham area see here

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