Plans for Balmoral tower blocks in Southend branded a ‘disgrace’ by residents

Improvement work on the Balmoral tower blocks has been branded a ‘disgrace’ by residents who claim they have been told nothing about it, despite potentially being forced out of their homes.

Residents are furious and struggling with anxiety over the planned work, which will take place on the upper floors of the blocks and centre around improving the buildings’ resilience in the unlikely event of an explosion.

Southend Council has called the work “intrusive” and said at least 10 residents will have to be moved out of their flats to some sort of temporary accommodation for nine months.

When the work is finished, they will have the option to stay living in the temporary homes or alternatively the council has promised to fully refurbish their existing property.

The chairman of the Balmoral Residents’ Association Terry Brown said residents have not been told anything about what to expect from the work and it has left him and many other residents struggling with anxiety.

He said: “We don’t know what is going on. There has been no consultation with residents whatsoever.

“We had a meeting with South Essex Homes but other than that, we know nothing.

“We don’t know what they will do with the people who have to move out.

“I have been in my flat for more than 20 years and I have no idea what will happen to me. I’ve had a week of not being able to sleep or eat and feeling sick.”

He continued: “Someone from South Essex Homes said to me aren’t you pleased about all this. What I am going to be excited about? The thought of being moved out of my flat for nine months and having no idea where I am going?

“It has been suggested some people could stay with relatives or some of the older people could be put in sheltered accommodation, well we don’t want sheltered my flat is my home and it has been that for 22 years.

“It is disgraceful.”

The safety work was approved at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday and will primarily affect 10 properties on the upper floors of the blocks.

It will take place across the three tower blocks on the Balmoral Estate along Salisbury Avenue and Balmoral Road; Grampian, Beacon and Blackdown, and follows planned structural surveys that take place across the council’s housing stock.

A council officer told the cabinet on Tuesday they have been “working closely” with the residents and promised anyone affected would be moved into properties that have been “refurbished the highest standard” and that same level of refurbishment will done to the impacted flats in the towers.

Council leader Ian Gilbert told the cabinet the three tower blocks in Westcliff are “entirely safe” but the work needs to be carried out after a building survey found they may not meet “all the relevant safety criteria”.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter