A Basildon tower block at the centre of recent controversy regarding its safety will be fully decanted, with the local council revealing that estimated repair costs have risen to approximately £16 million.
Standing at 14 storeys high, Brooke House in the centre of Basildon is the town’s tallest residential tower block. Built between 1960-62, the Grade II listed building has in recent years fallen into disrepair, with residents complaining of frequent power outages, leaks, mould and water damage affecting life inside their properties.
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service previously confirmed that essential remedial works to the building’s staircase cannot be carried out incrementally, therefore meaning that the block will have to be temporarily decanted, a process which began shortly before Christmas.
However, the first resident was required to vacate their flat due to the severity of flooding affecting the building’s highest storeys, rather than Basildon Borough Council giving a wider instruction to Brooke House’s population of over 80 families.
At a meeting scheduled for tonight (January 18) from 7pm, cabinet members will discuss proposals for a £16 million investment in order to carry out refurbishment works which are needed to bring the block up to modern-day standards. This will include repairs to the external staircase and handrail, mending holes in the roof, and providing replacement kitchen and bathroom fittings in individual flats. Work will also be executed to improve the energy efficiency of the building.
Councillor Andrew Schrader (Con. Billericay East), cabinet member for housing and estate renewal, said: “It is essential that we carry out the identified works to Brooke House to ensure the building is brought up to modern day standards. As the building has listed status, undertaking significant works and ensuring the building is energy efficient is more difficult and costly to implement.
“We understand the difficult situation this has left many residents in, and we will support them throughout the process – keeping them informed, finding them suitable alternative accommodation and putting in place a package of support measures.
“We would like to thank residents for their ongoing cooperation, understanding and patience.”
However, both Cllr Schrader and the council’s Conservative administration have been heavily criticised for the approach taken to the maintenance of Brooke House and assurances given to current residents that the building is safe.
In June 2022, £10 million was committed by the council to its ‘Safe and Sound Estates Programme’. At the time, Cllr Schrader said: “Brooke House is an iconic feature of Basildon Town Centre, and these works will ensure that cultural significance is maintained for future generations while delivering important improvements to the living experience for the people who call the building home.”
However, delaying granting planning permission for beginning essential repairs until 2022 has caused residents to endure what Councillor Maryam Yaqub (Lab., St Martin’s) described as “harrowing” conditions living in the tower block after an earlier £6 million improvement fund proposed by Basildon’s previous labour-led administration in 2021 was abandoned once the authority became Conservative.
Cllr Yaqub herself was accused of “scaremongering” amongst Brooke House residents in December 2023 by the council’s leader Councillor Andrew Baggott (Con. Burstead), who said: “Councillor Yaqub is a liar, and is being tacitly supported by the labour group in those lies. She has scare-mongered to (Brooke House) residents, claiming that the roof is falling in and that their lives are in danger.”