North Ayrshire Council is the second Scottish local authority to announce proposals to pull down all its high rise tower blocks.

Unveiling its new vision for housing in the region, the council said it could replace five ageing tower blocks in Irvine and two in Saltcoats with modern, state-of-the-art homes as it seeks to ensure its residents can enjoy high quality, affordable and energy efficient housing.

A final decision on the high flats is unlikely to be made until later this year and the council will use that time to hold full and comprehensive consultation with all residents to ensure that their questions are answered and to identify the best way forward.

Scotland’s biggest local authority landlord, North Lanarkshire Council, announced its own plans to demolish its even bigger stock of high flats in December following a programme of tower block structural surveys undertaken in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in June which claimed 71 lives.

Council leader Joe Cullinane said that tenants will have a big say on the proposals, which would bring about the end of high-rise living in North Ayrshire.

He said: “In the coming weeks and months, we will speak to all of our residents and offer them the chance to tell us face-to-face their thoughts on these ambitious proposals.

“From my point of view, this is an amazing opportunity to not only improve the quality of our council houses, but to improve the lives of our tenants and help with the ongoing transformation and regeneration of both the Fullarton and Saltcoats communities.

“There are clear links between better housing and better health – if we can provide that better standard of accommodation to our tenants, we can see their quality of life improve at the same time.”

High rise flats in Irvine

North Ayrshire currently has seven high rise blocks – five in the Fullarton area of Irvine, and two in Saltcoats, with 369 flats in total.

In a report for the council’s Cabinet on March 20, three main options for the tower blocks are:

  • Option 1 – Retain all seven towers blocks and launch an improvements programme, including installation of sprinklers, alongside regular maintenance at a total cost of £22.5 million over 25 years.
  • Option 2 – Demolish all seven blocks and replace with low-rise housing constructed on-site and elsewhere, at a net additional cost of £22.1m, to be completed by 2023.
  • Option 3 – Demolish the five Irvine tower blocks only, with replacement low rise housing constructed on-site and elsewhere, and retain the Saltcoats tower blocks, at a net additional cost of £14.4m.

Councillor Cullinane added: “The relatively small difference in costs between retaining the high flats and building new properties means it’s definitely worth exploring if this is the best option for both our tenants and the council.

“Rather than spend millions of pounds maintaining ageing high flats, would it be better to redirect that money to invest in brand-new, high quality housing?

“We are committed to investing in our communities and have already laid out our intention to complete the construction of 1000 new homes across North Ayrshire by 2022.

“We have recently opened new housing developments, like those at Robert W Service Court in Kilwinning and Cheviot Gardens in Irvine, which show how our ambitious housing plans are changing lives for the better.”

If approval is given to consider the replacement of the high flats, the council will begin the consultation exercise on Tuesday, April 3.

In the five Fullarton blocks, there are no owner occupiers, however around one-third of the Saltcoats high flats properties are privately owned. Discussions with these private owners – as well as Council tenants – will form a major part in the engagement exercise.

A report on the outcome of the consultation is expected to be brought before Cabinet this summer, with the next steps to be considered at that stage.