COMMENT: Safety comes first, but can residents be relocated?

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It’s a mammoth undertaking. But clearly Portsmouth City Council feels it has no choice but to rehouse about 800 residents of two city tower blocks while 50-year-old concrete screed is replaced.

In the wake of the Grenfell tower disaster in London, the authority’s main consideration has to be safety.

If there are any doubts over the blocks’ ability to absorb shock from a major incident such as a gas explosion, then the council is right to act.

But improvement works cannot take place in the 272 flats until the blocks are empty.

So residents of Horatia House and Leamington House in Somers Town will be gradually moved out between now and next spring in readiness for a stronger concrete layer to be added to flooring.

Of course the work means upheaval for the residents. Being told you have to leave your home must be very unsettling.

Although tenants will receive a home-loss payment of £6,100 per household, they will only get one offer of alternative accommodation and that offer cannot be refused.

Some clearly don’t want to leave their homes and have criticised the council because they have no idea where they will end up living and worry that their children may have to move schools.

Michelle Bates said: ‘I’m heartbroken because this is going to cause total upheaval for our family.’

Their concerns are understandable, but the question now is whether the council can deliver on its pledge to rehouse all the residents by spring 2019.

Seventy new properties in Somers Town are being earmarked, but freeing up many others depends entirely on people moving out of existing housing stock.

That could yet prove to be a massive stumbling block.