Falkirk district’s high flats will soon have lifts which service every floor instead of just odd or even levels.
That is the plan outlined by the local authority’s housing department, which has also moved to reassure residents and tenants that every possible step is being taken to address the long-running lift issues which began in April and have seen some pensioners become stranded in Falkirk’s Parkfoot Court.
Bosses are also confident that a permanent solution to leaking pipes and tanks damaging properties at Parkfoot and nearby Breton Court and Corentin Court will be found by the beginning of next week.
After investing £30 million on its 46 to 52-year-old high-rises in Falkirk and Camelon over the last 15 years, Falkirk Council will spend a further £1.2 million in 2019 transforming each of the buildings’ lifts systems to try to prevent scenarios seen at Parkfoot Court in recent months, when some tenants and residents were unable to leave their homes after a lift was declared out of service for three weeks.
Added to that, housing chiefs have also confirmed a £1.8 million energy-efficient combined heat and power system, which is already saving those living in six of the region’s 13 high-rise flats around 40 per cent each year compared to an electric panel system, will be introduced to the Belmont, Eastburn and Leishman blocks within the next 18 months.
Having faced heavy criticism over the aforementioned lift and water penetration issues, the council is eager to show its long-term commitment to the area’s high-rises and those who call them home.
David McGhee, head of procurement and housing property at Falkirk Council, said: “The high flats are a critical means of supplier stock.
“Some other local authorities’ high flats have run into disrepair or have been demolished but we’ve invested heavily in ours and we will continue to invest in these high-demand properties.
“There are 1100 properties in the 13 blocks and it’s about seven per cent of the housing stock — it’s an area we invest time, money and resources into.
“We commissioned a feasibility study six to nine months ago to look at opening up both sides of the lifts so that every floor is accessible. The construction type of the lifts isn’t ideal.
“If one lift goes down the reliance on the secondary lift doesn’t help those on the opposite floors. We’ve got provision in the capital programme now that we know it’s feasible for about £1.2 million for the works which will take about two years to complete.”
The council has confirmed homeowners will not be required to stump up for the lift system enhancements. With work expected to begin within the next three months, the total cost will be met by the local authority.
Mr McGhee explained: “Any significant work of this nature will be borne by the council because we see it as a maintenance issue.
“To benefit our tenants, we’ve also got a combined heating and power system that gives those residents a cheaper and more sustainable form of heating power.
“Six blocks within the Callendar Park area have that system just now and we’re planning to extend that to nine in the coming year.”
While the council has a long-term plan in place for the high flats, housing bosses are all too aware they have a much more immediate fight on their hands to solve the ongoing faulty lift saga at Parkfoot Court, as well as the recent pipe and tank leaks at Breton Court and Corentin Court.
The department believes the latter issue should be fixed within a matter of days, however, unfortunately for Parkfoot Court residents and tenants, the mystery surrounding its lift problems looks set to rumble on for some time yet.
Around £1 million is to be set aside by the council in the new year, once procurement and design matters have been resolved, to find a solution.
Mr McGhee said: “The issues we’re experiencing at Parkfoot are causing us a problem because we can’t identify specifically what’s causing them. The faults are unconnected and there’s no pattern or single identifiable issue.
“We’ve employed an independent lift specialist. We’re looking to use this consultant to review the faults and provide us with a diagnostic of what the most appropriate solution is. Parkfoot had its lift replaced only in December 2012 so these lifts are not old.
“They are pretty high-end spec lifts in terms of the electronics and are no different to the lift configurations in some of the other blocks.”
He added: “We don’t want to put in a solution until we’re 100 per cent sure it’s going to be the right fit. We don’t want disruption to tenants as a consequence of the lifts being out of action.”
The cause of the leaks has been attributed to work on sprinkler systems in communal bin store areas, which is being carried out in response to a post-Grenfell Tower safety review.
Mr McGhee explained: “We feel it’s an appropriate mitigating safety measure but, as a consequence, the water supply has been turned off and back on and that’s created pressure issues within tanks. The tanks in Breton and Corentin are section tanks and the pressure has created an issue with the seals. We’ve been responding to the faults and there are containment measures in place. We anticipate a full resolution by next week.”