Hatfield tower block to be demolished?

Queensway House, located in the town centre of Hatfield. Picture: DANNY LOO

Queensway House, located in the town centre of Hatfield. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

A Hatfield tower block is being considered for demolition and redevelopment by the borough council.

Queensway House. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin

Queensway House. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin - Credit: Archant

The consultation on whether to tear down the block was put forward by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council's cabinet on August 6.

At this meeting, council officers highlighted to the cabinet that maintaining the nearly 60-year-old building would be costly.

And due to uncertainty about future government legislation on tower blocks - following Grenfell - could also prove a risky course of action.

"A number of new guidelines have come out, including looking at the sector's previous approach to interpreting building and fire safety regulations," a spokeswoman for WHBC said.

Queensway House, Hatfield. Picture: DANNY LOO

Queensway House, Hatfield. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

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Queensway's fire doors have since been deemed unsafe - under new standards - and a fire warden has been put on 24-hour-watch since July 21.

"We are expecting further measures to be announced once the new primary legislation is published," a spokeswoman said.

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New guidelines, under a government social housing green paper, might include anything from health and safety requirements, housing delivery, performance management, complaints processes for tenants and resident engagement - all adding to the uncertainty.

The gas system might need an external flue - meaning scaffolding and disruption to residents - and a ventilation system would also need to be put in as for safety reasons the council has filled in bathroom windows going on to the landing.

Sprinkler systems - planned to be installed in September - are not required under current legislation, but the council wants to fit them as well.

"Until new legislation comes out and building and component standards are clarified, there is uncertainty around the level of further investment needed for Queensway House.

"This could take many months or even years, and in the meantime there is the potential that any work we carry out now could need to be changed in the future."

The council also thinks the 66 properties - made up of 22 bedsits and 44 one bed flats - would be unsuitable for the borough's future housing needs.

Since Monday it has been seeking feedback on the proposals from residents, leaseholders, Citizen's Advice, the recently opened night shelter Resolve and the Asian supermarket.

In these face-to-face meetings, homes and businesses are being asked to consider the following options before September 23:

The council will continue to manage and maintain Queensway House with investment to ensure it complies with standards now and in the future.

It will help all occupants of Queensway House to move out of the building permanently and leave it empty, effectively leaving the building empty.

It would help all occupants to move out permanently and demolish the building.

It would help all occupants to move out permanently, demolish the building, and redevelop the site.

The council predicts, if demolition is the final outcome of the consultation, that most of its costs would be from tenants and leaseholders moving out.

"We will have a clearer picture of how much this would be likely to cost once the consultation has ended," a spokeswoman said.

Cllr Nick Pace, the council's executive member for housing and community, said: "It is important to stress that no decision has been made yet.

"We want to know what people whose homes and businesses are based at Queensway House think about its future, and we are working with everyone affected individually to discuss the options - this will help inform [cabinet] members when they are making their final decision on the best option.

"Significant investment will be needed just to maintain the building and keep up with new and emerging regulations.

"The work necessary to do that would also create significant disruption to residents for prolonged periods.

"Even with these works Queensway House will not provide the modern, energy efficient and attractive accommodation which the council wishes to provide for people."

For now it looks likely that residents - in the 20 per cent vacant building - will need to stay put as the council would only put them in high priority for new housing - Band A - if the demolition approval goes ahead.

Cabinet is set to make a decision in early November on the future of the building.

Are you affected by the potential demolition? Share your views by emailing news@whtimes.co.uk.

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