Portsmouth tower block Q&A: What is wrong with Leamington House and Horatia House?

FOLLOWING the news hundreds of residents living in Portsmouth's Leamington House and Horatia House will have to move out of their homes '“ Portsmouth City Council has issued a series of question and answer statements.

Tuesday, 5th June 2018, 1:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 2:25 pm
Leamington House in Portsmouth as hundreds of residents are told there is a structural weakness in the concrete. Picture: Malcolm Wells PPP-180506-101250001

Structural reports on both the tower blocks unveiled weaknesses in the concrete used to construct them, casting doubts over the high-rises’ ability to absorb shock from a major incident like a gas explosion.

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Leamington House in Portsmouth as hundreds of residents are told there is a structural weakness in the concrete. Picture: Malcolm Wells PPP-180506-101250001

Stew Adamson, director of operations at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: We have been supporting Portsmouth City Council in relation to fire safety in Horatia and Leamington House.

‘Our priority is always the safety and well-being of all residents in Hampshire.

‘It is vital residents follow fire safety precautions in their home and the specific advice given to them by their landlords. Residents in blocks of flats should also be mindful of the impact their actions could have on fellow residents.

‘Anyone who would like personalised home safety advice can visit hantsfire.gov.uk/safeandsound to complete our online home fire safety checker.’

The following questions have been answered directly by Portsmouth City Council:

Q: What is happening with Leamington House and Horatia House?

A: As part of work to look at options to replace cladding we commissioned an assessment of the structural safety of the blocks. Tests have shown we need to do work to strengthen the buildings because their concrete isn’t as strong as expected. Because of this we are going to move residents to other accommodation.

Q: What is wrong with the building?

A: A structural report on the buildings has shown the concrete used in the original construction is not as strong as would be expected. There is no immediate danger to the buildings but concrete samples tested by leading experts show that if there were a severe explosion inside a flat it would cause more damage than would be expected.

Q: What sort of explosion do you mean?

A: The risk would come from an incident inside a flat involving the sort of explosion associated with pressurised gas, such as that found in gas bottles or cylinders. There is no mains gas supply in the building for heating or cooking which significantly reduces the risk of an explosion. There shouldn’t be anything like gas heaters in flats as our tenancy agreements don’t allow them, and we have put extra security measures in place to make sure things like gas bottles or cylinders are not in the building.

Q: How likely is an explosion?

A: As far as tower blocks are concerned, Leamington House and Horatia House have less risk of an explosion than most because there is no gas supply within the buildings. Our tenancy agreements don’t allow things like gas heaters in flats, and because we visited every resident when we started removing cladding we have seen inside every property recently. We are also enhancing the current fire warden role to make the buildings even safer. As well as patrolling the buildings they will be a 24-hour security presence at entrances to make sure no one who shouldn’t be in the blocks is allowed in and checking nothing dangerous is taken into the buildings like gas bottles or cylinders.

Q: Is it safe for residents to stay in the buildings?

A: Your safety is our priority and if it was not safe we would be emptying the buildings immediately. The structural reports on the buildings show that it is safe to stay in the building while we find alternative accommodation. These reports were done by industry experts.

Q: Will everyone move at the same time?

A: It isn’t possible for us to move everyone at the same time and it will all be based on people’s individual situations. Different people need different types and sizes of property and this has to be factored in for when people move.