Major upgrades to a historic town centre landmark which is in ‘urgent need’ of refurbishment have been approved by an Essex council.
A ground floor extension will be built underneath 1960s Brutalist tower block Brooke House, Basildon, to provide a new wheelchair-accessible entrance and a lobby area for residents.
The tower, which is Grade II listed and houses council tenants, will also receive a new roof terrace, general decoration and replacement works, upgrades to fire escapes, CCTV, insulation, cladding, extensions to staircases and like-for-like replacements of its windows.
Brooke House is raised on eight V-shaped concrete legs and concerns were raised at a planning committee meeting last night (June 22), at which the proposals were approved, over plans to infill this space with the new entrance lobby.
A Brooke House resident named at the meeting as Mrs Jeffers told members the repairs were “really needed” but that changes to the base of the building did not respect the building’s heritage.
She said: “The appearance of standing on legs, almost floating in mid-air, is important and impressive. To block in the legs would be cultural vandalism. It would be a terrible, unnecessary mistake.”
Mrs Jeffers continued to say there is already wheelchair access to the tower via the basement.
Councillor Craig Rimmer (Con, Pitsea South East) raised similar concerns over the infill, which he claimed would take away from the uniqueness of the building and block the “natural flow” of people through the town centre.
Chairing the meeting, Councillor David Dadds (Con, Billericay East) said he welcomed the design He said: “I think the building is in urgent need of the investment of the refurbishment and the redevelopment.”
He also said the infill would prevent the wind tunnel effect currently experienced by people walking underneath the building.
Labour’s Alex Harrison (Lee Chapel North) said: “The windows and the insulation in the apartments themselves, the work that we’re doing to them is brilliant and it’s long overdue and it will save residents hundreds of pounds on their energy bills which, as it’s going up again in October, is desperately needed.”
He later said: “Seeing as the fire escape and the CCTV and the insulation are all must-haves and we must get them done very quickly, if we could find a way to get a new design on the ground level then that would be perfect but if not then I feel like the pros massively outweigh the cons on this one.”