Resetting the relationship between local and national government. Read our Local Government White Paper

Ensuring safe housing: facilitating the relocation of tenants affected by Large Panel System building safety concerns

This case study explores the facilitation of the relocation of tenants affected by Large Panel System building safety concerns at a social housing estate which comprised of a tower block with over 120 homes.

View allBuilding safety articles
View allCommunities articles


After World War II, the United Kingdom investigated construction methods that could quickly and efficiently increase the level of housing in areas affected by the war. One method that became popular was Large Panel System Construction (LPS), which involved using prefabricated concrete panels to build high-rise towers. However, LPS constructions have caused national concern over the years due to the risk of partial or full collapse, particularly from internal gas explosions. This risk was tragically realised in May 1968 when an internal gas explosion caused a partial collapse of the Ronan Point tower block.

The damage caused by the explosion was more severe than expected, leading to a government-led reappraisal of LPS blocks throughout the UK. The Ministry of Housing issued several circulars and amendments to the building regulations and national wind code in response. The Building Research Establishment (BRE) also published several reports following the Ronan Point incident. While some landlords looked into decommissioning the blocks and redeveloping the locations using alternative methods of construction, many LPS-style tower blocks remain under the ownership of landlords, including local authorities who have chosen to monitor and mitigate the safety risks.

The tragic events of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire brought fire safety in tower blocks to the forefront of public attention. This led to tenants and landlords asking more critical questions about building safety and short-notice tenant decants while LPS blocks were demolished or refurbished to allow for enhanced safety measures.

To maintain anonymity, the details of this case study have been anonymised, as discussions with the housing provider and key stakeholders are still ongoing. 

Located in a densely populated area, a social housing estate in the South of England comprises a 20+ tower block with over 120 homes. Constructed in the late 1960s, the building follows an LPS-style construction and has undergone several improvements, including external cladding and minor refurbishments. However, while installing fire safety measures, concerns were raised about the structural strengthening works as they posed a potential safety risk. 

What triggered the projects?

LPS construction had been highlighted as an ongoing concern for many years. The 2017 Grenfell tragedy encouraged landlords to review the fire safety of tower blocks, leading to the decision to install sprinkler systems throughout the building. Although it is unclear what led to the final decision to vacate the premises, the landlord mentioned that structural concerns were highlighted during the preparations for the fire safety works, which triggered the decision to relocate for safety reasons.

A lack of clear and consistent messaging as to why there was a need for such a quick relocation set the project off on a negative footing, creating mistrust between the tenants and the landlord. The tenants reached out for support from their local councillors and the local authority. The landlord had not engaged these parties in the planning process, limiting the amount of support they were able to provide.  

The risk that needed to be addressed 

To address the safety risks, the landlord of the premises took the decision to ask all tenants to vacate the building to allow for consideration of the tower block's future. The tenants were given 48 hours to vacate, and the landlord put forward a number of measures to support tenants' relocation. This raised concerns with local tenants who felt that the timeframe and the communications were not clear and transparent, causing a lot of mistrust in the process.

The project to relocate tenants did not begin well, with a confrontation in a public meeting leading to the presence of the local police force. The tenants, supported by their local councillors, raised a number of issues with the process, including:

  • The lack of a clear message as to why the relocation was needed at such short notice - the landlord was reluctant to share all the information, 
  • the residents’ and tenants’ association were keen to have a large meeting involving all stakeholders, which was resisted by the landlord
  • an apparent lack of consistency in the messaging
  • the legal rights of the tenants and the enforcement rights of the landlord were very unclear, leaving residents unsure as to the seriousness of the request to vacate
  • the timeframe raised concerns as limited support networks were provided to help tenants with their relocation.

The solutions

Immediate action was required to support the tenants through this particularly challenging time. The local tenants’ association and councillors were not engaged in a timely way with the landlord’s planning process, with little notice given prior to the vacation notice. Identifying that this situation was devastating to many families, the local councillors engaged with the landlord to provide a number of measures to support tenants through this process, including:

  • Provision of translation services to ensure key messages were communicated clearly to the tower block's diverse range of tenants
  • provision of emotional and well-being support in partnership with the local MIND services to ensure families were supported during this challenging time
  • provision of independent legal advice to support tenants in knowing their rights and how to proceed with any relocation.

These measures began to provide much-needed support to the families and individuals. In addition to the above measures, regular open meetings and drop-ins were established to provide space for supportive conversations and regular updates from the landlords.

The initial 48-hour notice was not met due to several landlord delays. It became quickly apparent that the housing register and the landlord's knowledge of who was in the block was out of date, which led to delays in housing needs assessments. Many tenants were rehomed into serviced accommodation, although it took months before all tenants were relocated. The view of the tenants and their associated support was that the landlord did not anticipate the intricacies of the project, and adequate resources were not provided to meet their own deadline of a 48-hour vacation.

Lessons learned

Several landlords, including local authorities, have made the decision to vacate LPS premises due to safety reasons, with some examples of effective consultation and engagement with tenants. However, in this particular case, the relocation process was not as smooth as it could have been, presenting some important lessons to be learned:

  • Accurate and transparent communication, decision making and information sharing through the early stages of the project is essential to ensure that tenants are engaged and fully understand the challenges of the relocation project
  • landlords need to understand and communicate the legal expectations of tenant relocation projects, including sharing both the tenants' and landlords' legal obligations
  • providing support services such as mental health and well-being, and independent legal support, can help to ensure that tenants feel fully supported and help to build trust with the project
  • early and thorough engagement with tenants and local stakeholders is key. Taking the time to involve tenant associations, support networks, and local representatives in the planning process can help to resolve issues at an early stage, often before they escalate
  • ensure that any relocation project is adequately resourced. There may be times when multiple activities are scheduled simultaneously, and having adequate resources can help to avoid significant delays
  • ensure that you have up-to-date information on who is living in the homes. This will help to ensure that accurate housing needs analysis can be carried out without causing unnecessary delays to the programme.