Renovation for Brownhills flats

I’ve just noticed this press release from Walsall Housing Group, issued earlier this week. It seems the worst kept secret in Brownhills is now out, and the two remaining sixties monstrosities – Humphries House and Severn House will be renovated rather than removed. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed for some time now the ongoing works at the blocks, and now scaffold has been erected around Severn House.
I have mixed feelings about this – the blocks clearly need a huge amount of work to make them livable again, but I’m not sure that preserving them is the best idea. After all, can spending so much on these sites be economically viable when the fabric of these homes must surely be nearly life-expired? I hope the double glazing units are better than the ones recently installed at WHG’s new £6.5 million offices in Walsall, which have all proven to be faulty and need replacement. I also question the wood-pellet ‘biomass’ heating system; one of these blocks’ main features when built was a trendy new heating system – underfloor heating – that turned out to be impossibly costly to use and broke down with alarming regularity. I hope they have the wrinkles ironed out of this one.
It’s a fact that no matter how much you polish it, a bad job is still a bad job. I hope this works out for the sake of he long-suffering residents, but frankly, I’m not optimistic.

WHG has begun its most significant, concentrated investment in homes with a green makeover that promises to benefit customers, the environment and skyline.

More than £3million is being spent on landmark Humphries House and neighbouring Severn House, Brownhills, both of which are owned and managed by leading landlord whg.

The pioneering Midlands’ housing provider has strengthened its partnership with Aldridge-based Wates Construction and British Gas to give the 1960s blocks a massive overhaul.

whg is introducing the very latest in heating technology to the blocks by fitting highly energy-efficient biomass boilers that burn wood pellets, a clean and natural fuel.

Residents will be able to individually change the temperature within their own flat using a wall-mounted unit that can be controlled like a central heating boiler. The system will also provide instant hot water.

Group Chief Executive Gary Fulford said: “Work to Humphries and Severn Houses is not only significant in terms of investment but exciting as we are introducing cutting-edge green technology. whg is at the fore of the retrofit revolution and we will continue to innovate for the benefit of our customers and the environment.

“We aim to create homes where our customers are happy and proud to live and this is a good example of turning theory into practice,” added Gary.

Scaffolding is being put up around the blocks as the dated pebble dash exterior will be replaced with rendered insulation in a colour chosen by customers. As part of the extensive project, new roofs will be fitted, double glazed windows installed and the communal areas redecorated. Work will be completed next spring and follows a recent bathroom and kitchen upgrade to the flats.

The combination of better insulation and the new heating system will lower the carbon footprint of Humphries and Severn Houses, off High Street, and ensure energy bills for residents are less than with standard heating systems. In addition the overall effect of the makeover will improve Brownhills’ skyline.

whg is a pioneer of the retrofit, designed to improve the energy efficiency of a property, and has an impressive range of projects either completed, ongoing or on the horizon.

Working with energy giant British Gas, whg delivered the country’s first Community Energy Savings Programme. The work to modernise homes in Blakenall, Walsall, in 2009/10 with a range of energy efficient measures attracted a visit from Joan Ruddock MP, then Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and helped whg secure the gas industry’s energy champion award this year.

This entry was posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Followups, Just plain daft, Local media, Local politics, News, planning, Shared media, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Council and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Renovation for Brownhills flats

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    Yes, I’m a shade disappointed as I thought these blocks would go the way of the others. Doubtless they will one day, but, presumably, whg calculate that it is more economical, at least in the short term, to get what they can out of the existing structure than demolish and new build.

    Design-wise, the planning permission (ref 11/0709/FL), in preference to a more garish orange-red combo, sets the colours as white render with vertical panels of mist (Severn) and pebble blue (Humphries) – unless agreed with the Council. I guess Humphries House would look something like The Pinnacle in Willenhall.

  2. Caz says:

    It’s good for the residents , that something is finally being done to improve the condition of these flats. They might not be everyones cup of tea, but 2 friends of mine lived in Humphries House, and loved it there, only leaving after having children and wanting a garden for them to play in.If they pulled them down, where would they house everyone….. in the few apartments that will eventually be built by the Anchor Bridge?
    We’ve lost several blocks of flats in Brownhills, which were great starter homes for young couples/families but I don’t see any homes being built to replace them. Wessex Close were lovely, once inside, but what have we got there now? I feel so sorry for the youngsters of today,with lots struggling to find work, getting on the property ladder is nigh on impossible and they don’t stand much hope of getting a ‘council’ property. Most decent ‘council’ properties have been sold off to tenants, under Maggie Thatchers right to buy,which is great for those tenants that did buy and I don’t blame them. But they need to use the money building new homes,perhaps on the land where the flats were demolished.
    WHG did a good job renovating the Peake Road/Cresent, Brownhills and Lindon Road houses. I heard that those ‘Smith’ houses were literally thrown up after the war, with an expected life span of 30 years but they look great from outside now [although the plastic trim around the inside of the windows to hide the ‘gap’, leaves a lot to be desired.
    To all living there, good luck and I hope you love the finished work.

  3. Bob says:

    I think caz has some very valid points. But as some locals will know that the condition of these blocks is also due to the mistreatment of the blocks by the residents, situation where as soon as repairs are being carried out they are being vandalised, nevermind people urinating in the flats. While Whg may have to accept some of the blame, surely you should look at the residents also.

    • Hold it right there.

      The residents of these blocks didn’t make them out of the shoddiest, cheapest materials using discredited designs and methods. They didn’t make them with a cripplingly expensive, ineffective heating system. Neither did they make the damp, cause the roof leaks or fit the windows and doors that are falling to bits. Likewise, I suspect the lifts that so often fail and the water pump that goes on frequent holidays isn’t caused by bad tenants, either.

      WHG, like the council before them, have failed to maintain these appallingly built structures and are now paying the price. Housing tenant policy is also the remit of the landlords, who have also been notoriously slow to act on complaints of ASB.

      I’ve heard lots of folk commenting about what wonderful places the flats and maisonettes were in Brownhills – oddly enough, none of those people ever lived in them. They are damp, laden with asbestos and badly designed. Just keeping them warm in winter was a nightmare. The fact that there is no replacement is a failure of policy, not the flats themselves. Look to Pleck, where their monstrosities were replaced almost immediately. Failure of local authority management is clearly to blame. That should never be seen as a suitable excuse for keeping poor housing.

      The sate of the flats has been linked to in the above article. Blaming the bad tenants is easy, but both the fabric and tenancy problems speak of an utter failure of management policy, and now they’re throwing good money after bad.

      Walsall went through this with Greatorex House and it’s neighbour in Darlaston in the late nineties, before demolishing them both due to structural difficulties 4 years later. You may well have faith in WHG, but I, and many of the tenants, have not.

      Best wishes


  4. Pingback: High rise mice? | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  5. Pingback: High-rise histories – can you help a local historian? | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.