Agenda item

Blackshots Estate - Demolition and Redevelopment


Julian Wain presented the report that requested the committee to consider and comment on further approvals required relating to the redevelopment of the Blackshots estate. The report proposed a site area for redevelopment and advised that Cabinet authority be sought for the vacation of the blocks and the making of appropriate payments to displaced residents.


Councillor Redsell stated the project should be further on than it was now as this meant another year for residents in those blocks, she was not happy with the plans as greenbelt did not need to be taken to deliver this project, there were other options that needed to be looked at and possibly used. Any plans to build six or more high flats she would be against as the same problems would occur in 20 or 30-years’ time, people deserved a decent place to live. Councillor Redsell acknowledged there was still a long way to go and hoped the consultation sought the views of residents and that information being provided to residents from officers was correct. Julian Wain thanked Councillor Redsell for her continued support and stated the consultations would look to minimise that and provide the most efficient scheme possible. An exhaustive list of sites had already been explored but if there were any other sites these could be looked into and stated there was a balance between height and land tag. Ewelina Sorbjan agreed the message had to be correct and there should be no reason for officers not to know what was happening.


Councillor Worrall thanked officers for the very detailed report and stated she was pleased there was finally some progress being made on this. That families did not deserve to be stuck in high-rises which were just not fit for purpose and questioned whether those families could choose where they go and have priority. She was concerned that one of the options was to demolish and leave the land and could therefore lose the revenue from the housing, rents and council tax. Councillor Worrall questioned whether leaseholders were happy that the blocks were coming down and whether the amount of money being offered by the council was satisfactory to prevent any disruption of demolition. Julian Wain stated approval had been sought from commissioners for disturbance payments, leaseholder negotiations and the development of the business case. One of the things that would be asked of the contractor was how the project could be phased and the best chances of undertaking a one-phase decant. This was subject to procurement, subject to a scheme that was financially viable and why the study was so important to get something designed that would work. The sample of leaseholders was small and one of the real importance of the consultation.


Councillor Liddiard questioned whether residents realised there would be an increase in rent to which Julian Wain stated this would be based on affordable rent and, as yet the council had not set a firm policy decision. Councillor Liddiard referred to a potential scenario of one leaseholder left in the block that could cause issues and whether leaseholders had been offered another leasehold property in another block. Julian Wain stated policy was a straightforward buy-out and offered a sum equivalent to the market value of their property and not offered an automatic return to somewhere else. Councillor Liddiard was reassured that the blocks would be kept water and wind tight until the blocks were empty and this would all form part of the negotiations with residents. Councillor Liddiard questioned whether they would be offered another flat in the private sector to which Julian Wain stated his initial reaction would be probably yes. Ryan Farmer stated some analysis had been undertaken on property purchasing of those leasehold properties and similar properties in that area were comparable, benchmarking had been undertaken and work had been undertaken with legal colleagues and at this point in time it was a reasonable offer.


Councillor Hebb suggested whether it would be worthy of the committee undertaking a visit to help sponsor this work and support the work that was being undertaken. Councillor Hebb stated the council had no evidence of the ability to deliver major projects and had failed to communicate with the public on milestones of projects and had concerns there were no project plans that explained those key milestones on how the project was expected to be delivered. Councillor Hebb suggested a new recommendation “Committee requests regular public reports on project milestones (including slippage factors) and requests officers to confirm to committee what members-led mechanisms will be used to review the adherence to the plan”. To which all members agreed. Councillor Spillman stated the council had various experiences of delivering housing projects and hoped that was some reassurance for members.


Councillor Hebb questioned whether those milestones should be a Corporate KPI and how they be recorded, measured, and monitored. He also referred to risks, those acute risks that were here and now and risks that had been identified for the residents that lived there. He questioned whether control measures were in place to reduce the risk of satisfactory whilst the work was being undertaken. Members agreed that discussions need to be undertaken with residents, referred to the expert advice as mentioned in the report and questioned how confident officers were with the diligence that had been undertaken and who were the advisors. Julian Wain stated there was an officer steering group which had started to examine the milestones, risks, issues, and mitigations and agreed this should go through a governance procedure and be reported on a regular basis. In terms of pressure on housing stock this was an issue and would remain so until the properties had been built. In regard to communicating with residents, housing officers would be visiting residents to undertake housing needs assessments discussing what people need, where they want to go and to go through the process.


Councillor Redsell stated there was other land in the borough that belonged to the council that was not being utilised, which could be used for this project and those other options should be used. Julian Wain stated the design team could take a look into this and in line with Thurrock modelling it would not be appropriate to bring in private sector as this would be a housing revenue account scheme for which the council would pay.


Councillor Liddiard referred to the greenbelt land and questioned whether the council would have to pay building rate to the revenue account or whether this was housing land to which Julian Wain stated this was playing fields, general fund land.


Councillor Mayes thanked members for their comments this evening on this item and stressed residents were desperate to move as quickly as possible and fully supported the report to ensure those residents were moved out of those blocks of flats and into housing that was fit for purpose.




Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee commented on:


1.      The proposed site area for developing proposals for the future of the Blackshots estate.


2.      Commencement of decanting residents from these properties and the treatment of these residents in line with the Council’s allocations policy.


3.      Payment of home loss and disturbance payments as appropriate.


4.      Approval to commence negotiation with leaseholders for the repurchase of properties with approval to complete purchase delegated to the Corporate Director Adults Housing and Health and Chief Financial Officer in consultation with the Director of Place and the Portfolio Holders for Finance, Housing and Growth.


5.      Subject to further Cabinet approval the use of Compulsory Purchase Powers under s226 Town and Country Planning Act 1990 should this become necessary.


6.      In view of the decant and leasehold repurchase decisions, no dwellings within these three blocks shall be re-let.


7.      Service of a demolition notice under Section 138B and Schedule 5A of the Housing Act 1985 which will confirm the Council’s intention to demolish the buildings and suspend the obligation on the Council to complete right to buy applications on the three tower blocks in question.


8.      Approval to negotiate and settle any statutory compensation claims made by residents as a result of the service of the Initial Demolition Notice delegated as at Paragraph 1.4.


9.      Approval to establish a budget of £2.7m to meet the costs of purchase of leasehold interests.


10.   Agreed to receive a report in December 2023 to consider the full Business Case for redevelopment of the site and determine the most appropriate financial option at that time.


11.   Committee requested regular public reports on project milestones (including slippage factors) and requests officers to confirm to committee what members-led mechanisms will be used to review the adherence to the plan.


Julian Wait left the committee room at 8.44pm.

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