Residents hit out at Southend Council over ‘non-urgent’ work at Balmoral Estate during pandemic

Residents living on the Balmoral Estate in Southend fear they will be needlessly put at risk of Covid-19 when the council undertakes structural work on all three tower blocks.

The chair of the Balmoral Estate Residents Association has said there is no reason the complex work, which is aimed at improving the structure of the tower blocks, should be happening during the height of a deadly pandemic.

Chairman Terry Brown is particularly concerned as it could mean several residents who live on the top floors will face significant disruption and potentially have to temporarily move out of their homes for up to nine months.

The council has admitted the work is “not urgent” and stressed that it will not happen until next year.

Mr Brown said: “We are in the middle of the worst crisis this country has seen since the Second World War and they are talking about a second wave over the winter, yet we are potentially being moved out of our flats in February.

“I do not believe it. I’m told by my doctor if I catch this virus I am dead. I have a problem with one of my lungs and I probably wouldn’t survive.”

Mr Brown, added that residents also feel left in the dark over the issue, having been told almost nothing about what to expect.

The £2.32million work is set to take place across all three tower blocks on the Balmoral Estate along Salisbury Avenue and Balmoral Road; Grampian, Beacon and Blackdown.

Councillor Ian Gilbert, leader of the council, said: “We understand there might be some concern among residents on the Balmoral Estate, but they can be reassured they are our priority.

“One of the three recommendations from a report approved by the cabinet, is the ongoing resident engagement with the project, alongside the actual work needed and associated costs.

“The blocks are not unsafe and do not require immediate work, but we want all of our residents to feel safe in their homes and this is essential work to strengthen the top three storeys.”

He added that the council stay in touch with resident and work closely with “those directly affected in the 54 flats” to find the “least intrusive way” for the work to be completed.

Mario Ambrose, executive director of South Essex Homes, said: “We are working on a detailed programme of resident engagement to run up until the works begin at Brecon and continue throughout the duration of the project.

“We are at a very early stage however, as always, residents will remain at the forefront of all we do. At the appropriate time, we will be consulting with each affected resident individually to discuss their options and tailor a solution that meets the particular needs of their household.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter