Evacuated block of council flats in Bristol could be knocked down and replaced

Protesters setting off from Barton House on a march to City Hall
Protesters setting off from Barton House on a march to City Hall -Credit:Bristol Live/ Paul Gillis

A block of council flats in Bristol which was evacuated last year could eventually be knocked down and replaced. City Hall bosses are considering several options for the future of Barton House, including both demolition and extensive refurbishment, but nothing has been decided yet.

Bristol City Council has commissioned documents exploring the option of demolition, after serious concerns around structural issues surfaced. Barton House, in Barton Hill east of the city centre, was built in the 1950s and is Bristol’s oldest tower block.

Hundreds of residents left their homes last November due to fears the block could collapse in the event of a fire, and most returned in February after the building was made safe. Details of what could happen next are expected this summer, as the council is reviewing its tower blocks.

Read more: Barton House is now safe residents to move back in, says council

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A recent freedom of information request has revealed that two council reports have been written, exploring whether or not Barton House should be knocked down. But the response declined to publish these reports, and associated emails, as the estates review is still ongoing.

The request asked for “copies of proposals to demolish and replace Barton House made since November 1, 2023”. The response then confirmed these documents do exist.

The response said: “Having reviewed the results of the fresh searches, I can advise that the information consists of one internal ‘Options Appraisal’ report for Barton House (with an additional addendum document) from September 2023 prepared for consideration by the service area and senior management boards; a related externally commissioned ‘Development Scenarios’ report for Barton House from November 2023; and emails regarding the commissioning and preparation of both reports.”

In the response, the council said the documents were exempt from freedom of information law, as they are “material in the course of completion”. That means because they form part of a wider review, they don’t have to release the information until that review is completed.

A public update to residents on the progress of the review is expected by the end of July. The review is assessing the “long-term viability” of several council tower blocks, many of which were built in the 1960s, and older buildings in poor condition are taking priority.

The council was asked to comment. A spokesman for Acorn, the community union representing some Barton House residents, said they would meet soon with Green Councillor Barry Parsons, the new chair of the housing policy committee.

Acorn said: “This is yet more evidence of what Acorn members from Barton House have been saying for a long time: the council has been withholding information from residents. Residents are being asked to trust the council when they say Barton House is now safe. Council leaders should ask themselves: would you trust someone who's withholding information from you?

“The previous council administration consistently withheld information and repeatedly stonewalled invitations to meet the Acorn block representatives from Barton House. But since the local elections, the council is under new leadership. The new chair of the housing committee, Barry Parsons, has agreed to meet with Acorn block reps. We hope this is the beginning of a new relationship between residents and the council. Trust will need to be rebuilt.”