Leicester block to be demolished due to structural fears
GOSCOTE HOUSE was built in the same way as buildings in Southwark, which were partially evacuated due to structural concerns in the event of fires or gas explosions.
Architects Journal reported on the decision to demolish Goscote House, a 23 storey residential high rise in Leicester, due to fears over its ‘ongoing structural stability’. The building is the ‘tallest remaining tower block built using the controversial large panel construction system [LPS]’, which was used on Ronan Point – a 22 storey tower that partially collapsed in a gas explosion in 1968, killing four people.
The Ledbury Point buildings in Southwark saw gas supplies cut in August and certain residents evacuated due to the identification of similar structural defects cited. Southwark Council had said it was ‘confident’ on the tower blocks’ safety, with inspections discovering ‘urgent fire safety risks in dozens of flats that had been present, in some cases, for up to 30 years’, and type four ‘thorough and intrusive’ fire risk assessments were carried out by council fire safety officers.
At the same time, that council hired Arup to ‘assess the risks posed by large cracks in residents’ walls’, repairing these and testing the buildings’ structural integrity and ‘ability to withstand gas explosions’. The survey and fire risk assessment aimed to ‘determine the permanent fix to deal with the fire safety compartmentation issues’, with the main concern that ‘tests find that the tower blocks should be demolished and rebuilt’.
While a few households moved to new accommodation, some were given immersion heaters and hotplates, but the replacement works, since completed, had been postponed to ‘mid-late October’. Fire safety experts and structural surveyors Arnold Tarling and Sam Webb told Southwark Council installing the new heating system would ‘risk weakening the concrete blocks even further, and increase the chance of collapse’, having been first to highlight the dangers.
Both ‘cast doubt’ on whether the blocks could withstand drilling needed to put hot water pipes through each flats’ floor and ceiling. A later report from them recommended the buildings should be demolished. Arup then detailed a ‘catalogue of structural weaknesses’ in the 14 storey blocks, with £6.8m spent since last July as of last December.
The structural integrity of the concrete frame at Goscote House, according to Leicester City Council’s report, ‘cannot be guaranteed for longer than five years’. All of the affected buildings were constructed using the LPS technique, which involved prefabricating concrete sections off site and then assembling them ‘one upon the other’, with the sections ‘held together only by their own weight’.
Leicester City Council initially planned to refurbish the tower and retrofit sprinklers, but councillors are expected to vote to demolish it for half the cost, ‘and either build new homes or sell the site on’. A formal decision is due this month, and demolition is not expected to take place until next April. Andy Connelly, assistant mayor for housing, stated that the tower was built when ‘housing needs were very different’, with a ‘significant investment’ required to bring it ‘up to modern standards’.
He added: ‘The structural reports are telling us that the building is reaching the end of its life span, so we’re faced with a decision: spend money on it now to hopefully get a few more years’ worth of use, or stop and concentrate on re-homing tenants in more suitable, alternative accommodation.’