Councillor calls for confirmation of Basildon tower block repairs

A Basidon councillor has called for assurances from the local authority that major repair works to the borough’s tallest tower block will commence following delays, and that its residents will be provided for in line with a clear strategy to make the building safe.

Councillor Maryam Yaqub (Lab. St Martin’s) presented a motion at a Basildon Borough Council meeting on December 14 requesting that the authority discloses a decanting strategy for Brooke House, and “safeguard the well-being of residents who feel neglected and forgotten by the council”.

In 2021, £6 million was allocated as part of the council’s budget for crucial repair work to Brooke House in Town Square, with the intention of replacing the windows and ventilation system and improving the water and electric systems, in addition to urgent handrail maintenance in stairwells.

The 14-storey, Grade II listed tower block was completed in 1962, but in recent years has been at the centre of various health and safety controversies as the building has fallen into disrepair. Most recently, extended power cuts have led to the lifts being out of service leaving residents to climb partially-exposed stairs to their apartments, and holes in the roof have caused persistent leaks and water damage.

Speaking to LDRS, Cllr Yaqub said: “At the moment the biggest issue at hand is that the council has failed in its communication with the residents.”

She said that, whereas leader of Basildon Borough Council Andrew Baggott (Con., Burstead) had initially proposed decanting the building as soon as possible in order to complete essential repairs, cabinet member for housing Councillor Andrew Schrader (Con., Billericay East) had been under the impression that maintenance works could be carried out over a period of approximately two years without the need to temporarily displace residents.

However, she said that both residents and the council “are in a position in which we don’t know whether (repairs) are going to be carried out”.

“Will the repairs sit there as just more items on a to-do list?”

Cllr Yaqub said that a decanting strategy is in the process of development, but is not likely to be voted on in cabinet until February 2024. Until then, Brooke House residents will not know whether they will be made to leave their homes to make the building safe.

She said: “The only way I can describe the situation is that (the council) has created a huge amount of worry and stress… but essentially is now going to do nothing about it as it will cost so much money.”

Planning permission for the necessary works was granted in July 2022, and due to commence in April this year had plans been executed to schedule.

“It’s not as if the council had to find the money,” said Cllr Yaqub; “A pot of £6 million was allocated specifically to Brooke House. None of the works have been carried out. Is it really now the case that if the council doesn’t have the money to (carry out all essential works at once) they just won’t do it? It doesn’t make sense.”

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Emma Doyle

Local Democracy Reporter