Fate of ‘unsafe’ Portsmouth tower blocks will be decided this month

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THE fate of two ‘unsafe’ tower blocks in Portsmouth could be decided by the end of the month.

Councillors are set to consider future options for both Leamington and Horatia House in Somers Town at a cabinet meeting on February 26.

Portsmouth City Council housing cabinet member Councillor Darren Sanders outside Horatia House in Portsmouth. Picture: Malcolm Wells

Portsmouth City Council housing cabinet member Councillor Darren Sanders outside Horatia House in Portsmouth. Picture: Malcolm Wells

Last June around 800 residents were told they would have to be re-homed after work to remove Grenfell-style cladding revealed weaknesses in the structures’ concrete.

Originally it was thought the blocks could be refurbished for residents to move back into if they wanted.

But other options could be on the cards. Portsmouth City Council’s head of housing, Councillor Darren Sanders, said: ‘Over the past few months, we have been doing extensive work to understand what the future options are for the buildings.

‘A report outlining the options is being prepared for consideration by the council’s cabinet on February 26, so we will be able to say more about the next steps for the buildings by then.’

He added: ‘The safety of our residents is our absolute priority, which is why we took the decision to put in additional safety measures and start the process of moving residents from Leamington House and Horatia House, once we discovered issues with the original 1960s construction of the buildings.

‘We know how unsettling this has been for residents, some of whom have lived in the blocks for many years. We’ve worked with them to find suitable new homes and we are grateful to them for being so understanding through the process.

‘The majority of households have already moved, and we are continuing to work with the last few residents to find them suitable new homes.’

For Leamington House resident, Tamsin Hazelwood-Harmer, the evacuation process had been ‘heartbreaking.’ The 38-year-old, who is due to move from the tower soon with her husband and two children, said: ‘I have lived here for about 16 years. We had a good home and a great group of neighbours. It is like losing a community.

‘It was really horrible when people started to leave and now there aren’t many people here it’s very quiet, which is quite spooky, and it’s freezing now because the pipes aren’t all in use.

‘There have been rumours that it could be turned into student housing but I think that’s just because there seems to be a lot of student housing in the city. Obviously it would be a shame if that were to happen.’

She added: ‘If everybody who I knew came back here, if it was redone and opened to us, I would want to live here again. But I don’t think that will be possible. People are already starting to get settled in their new homes.’

Of the 272 households in both blocks new homes have been found for 259. It is expected homes for the remaining 13 will be found by the end of the spring.