Willmott Dixon housing block empty for four years due to safety concerns

A housing scheme in Elephant & Castle built by Willmott Dixon has lain derelict for over four years while waiting for cladding remediation works to start.

Residents of the scheme, which was built for housing association L&Q at 26-28 Arch Street in Southwark, were forced to move out of their homes in May 2019 after the building was deemed unsafe.

However, four years after being evicted work is still needed on the building, which was built in 2011 and has an outer cladding system that includes high-pressure laminate.

L&Q originally assessed in May 2019 that the works would take 18 months to complete. The scheme consists of 54 homes, of which 47 were occupied at the time it was decanted. Over 100 residents were affected in total.

The original decision to vacate the building was taken by L&Q after an independent fire engineer concluded that the issues with the external wall system, including but not limited to the cladding component, meant that residents were not safe. 

L&Q executive group director David Lewis said: “The safety and wellbeing of our residents will always be our top priority. After identifying the need for building safety works, we took action to find alternative homes for residents living in the building.

“We are in negotiations with [Willmott Dixon] over a programme of works. We are sorry that this has led to delays starting works, and have offered to buy back the homes of affected leaseholders should they wish to move out permanently.

“We are in regular communication with residents, and are grateful for their patience and understanding while we try to resolve these issues.

Speaking to Southwark News, Labour councillor for Chaucer ward and cabinet member for sustainable development Helen Dennis said it was outrageous that the tenants had spent so long out of their homes.

“It’s high time that L&Q provides clarity for residents on the future of their former homes and provides assurances to the community that our affordable housing isn’t going to be lost for good,” she said.

A spokesperson for Willmott Dixon said the remedial works were a matter for L&Q, and the contractor does not know why works have not started.

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