Structural surveys to be carried out on 16 'defective' blocks of flats in Milton Keynes

Residents fear the concrete panel buildings will collapse on them

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 3:25 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 3:26 pm

Sixteen blocks of flats built with concrete panels by the council 70 years ago are to be surveyed to see if they are collapsing.

The buildings are all in Bletchley and some are displaying severe cracks on the outside.

They were built with Reema blocks, a popular, cheap and quick 1950s and 1960s method of construction using large prefabricated and reinforced panels of concrete.

Lanark House flats in Bletchley

Ronan Point, a 22 storey tower block in East London was built with similar materials in 1968. Just two months after it opened, a gas explosion blew out some load-bearing walls and caused the collapse of one entire corner of the building.

Four people were killed 17 injured, and the spectacular nature of the failure led to major changes in UK building regulations resulted.

This week Milton Keynes Council is in the process of commissioning structural surveys on the 16 West Bletchley blocks to see whether or not they are safe.

"The surveys will happen as soon as possible after we appoint an external specialist," said a spokesman.

One of the cracks at Lanark House

He added: "We’re aware of the issue and will be carrying out further investigations. The council is committed to improving all of its homes across MK through its planned maintenance programme.”

Some residents are not happy though. One young mum who was rehoused by the council in Lanark House, in West Bletchley's Cumbria Close, said her building is already showing alarming cracks in the concrete structure.

She is also worried about what would happen if a fire were to break out, as research shows Reema blocks can cause flames to spread rapidly and ultimately lead to concrete wall panels collapsing.

"These buildings are defective... They are entering the end of their service lives. The vulnerabilities are growing. Central government may need to work out a plan for decommissioning the surviving towers in an orderly manner. We got 50 years out of buildings that were poorly built to a fundamentally flawed design. We should not push our luck - or wait for it to run out," she said.

A deep crack in the concrete

The mum has been complaining to MK Council for two years about the structure of the building.

"I live on the bottom floor so have the weight of all the other flats on top. There are cracks everywhere on the external of the building including exposed steel rebar beams which are rusting away and pushing the concrete out," she said,

"There are also cracks on the foundation of the buildings. The concrete porch is falling apart and starting to bow, it also has all of the steel beams exposed in several different places - I have made the council aware of this.

"If that canopy falls then it has the potential to kill someone. I am extremely concerned at the structure of this building. I feel like the lives of son and I are in the council's hands. They should learn from Ronan Point."

The foundations at Lanark House are also displaying cracks

A survey was carried out into Milton Keynes Council's housing stock during 2016 and 2017. Shockingly, it revealed that 34.75% of the houses and flats surveyed dis not meet the minimum Decent Homes Standard.

The council acknowledged this was much higher than the national average levels of non-decency, which stands at 13% within the social housing stock and results predominantly from historic under-investment.

Plans are currently afoot to demolish two of the city's tallest blocks of flats, Mellish Court in Bletchley and The Gables in Wolverton and build new housing on the sites.

Both the tower blocks failed fire safety inspections and were found to need "significant" improvement works.

Some residents have already been moved by the council into alternative accommodation and the remainder should be rehoused by October this year.