Stevenage Major Refurbishment Contract: Work to flat blocks is being scaled up

Before and after the major works at a flat block in Stevenage's Plash Drive. Picture: courtesy of St

Before and after the major works at a flat block in Stevenage's Plash Drive. Picture: courtesy of Stevenage Borough Council. - Credit: Archant

The controversial refurbishment of flat blocks in Stevenage has been scaled up after central government gave the green light for construction work to resume amid the pandemic.

The Major Refurbishment Contract applies to all 550 low and medium-rise flat blocks owned by Stevenage Borough Council and could include roof replacements and structural repairs.

With an average estimated bill of £14,000 per flat for leaseholders, the works are causing widespread financial concerns, and the standard of work has also been called into question.

SBC has confirmed the works will continue despite the council itself facing financial crisis, having so far suffered £4.5 million in lost income due to COVID-19.

SBC is considering a Section 114 notice – an emergency measure banning all new expenditure, with the exception of safeguarding vulnerable people – and has warned of potential job losses and cuts to services.

A spokesman said: “The council is not on the verge of issuing a S114 notice, but has this under review. The MRC is funded from the Housing Revenue Account. These works are not currently projected to be significantly impacted by the pandemic.”

SBC says it scaled back works when lockdown began, but from Monday started a phased scaling up. Internal works will only take place in homes where residents are not shielding or self-isolating, unless to remedy a direct risk.

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Cllr Jeannette Thomas, SBC’s executive member for housing, said: “Our first priority is always health and safety, which is why we scaled back works.

“We have since conducted a comprehensive review of our working practices to ensure we can confidently comply with government guidance. Our phased approach to scaling up work will ensure we’re able to make the necessary adjustments to site safety and provide training on the new requirements. If work cannot be undertaken safely, it will not take place.

“Our contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers – many of which employ Stevenage residents – are facing significant hardship as a result of the pandemic. Not restarting works would have a huge impact on our local economy; supporting these businesses will help to mitigate some of the economic impact of COVID-19.

“We have also made the decision to delay invoicing leaseholders who were due final bills. This will be re-evaluated in three months.”

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