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Ipswich: Prefabs set to be given another new lease of life

PUBLISHED: 12:34 24 January 2014 | UPDATED: 12:35 24 January 2014

Prefab houses on Inverness Road,Ipswich.

Prefab houses on Inverness Road,Ipswich.

Sarah Lucy brown

Ipswich council’s stock of prefabs are to be given a new lease of life – nearly 50 years after the end of their planned life!

Welcome for prefab refurbishment from residents

Residents living in Inverness Road welcomed the news that the council is to spend money on their homes – but some felt there were other priorities rather than repairing roofs or installing a new kitchen.

Keith and Brenda Hill have lived in the road for 23 years and there have been modifications to their home because Mrs Hill has a disability.

Mr Hill said: “They’re already dealing with a new kitchen and bathroom, but I don’t know about doing anything to roof.

“The roofs have asbestos in them so they would need specialist workers to deal with it.”

Nicky Maloney has only moved to the area recently and likes the neighbourhood – although agreed that the homes could do with updating.

“I don’t really like the way the door opens straight into the kitchen on this side of the road. If they do something about that it would be really good.”

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said he did nor feel there was anything wrong with the homes – but there should be attention to the verges which have turned to mud caused by cars parking on them.

He said: “I have to use a wheelchair and I sometimes have to go to the end of the road and come back because I cannot get over the mud.”

Gillian Harrison moved to Inverness Road just under three years ago, and was delighted to hear the homes would be improved.

“I am very happy here. It is nice and quiet and the homes are good because they’re all on the level. I am glad they’re planning to improve them,” she said.

The prefabs were put up in the late 40s as an emergency response to the housing crisis after the Second World War.

They were designed to have a life of 15-20 years, but half a century after they should have started being replaced they remain very popular.

Ipswich council has 127 prefabs in the Inverness Road area. Another 15 were bought by their tenants under right-to-buy legislation.

They remain very popular with many tenants who like their bungalow layout – and the large gardens that come with them.

Now the borough is planning to give them a new lease of life by giving them new roofs, installing new kitchens and bathrooms, and improving insulation.

The vote of confidence in the homes comes less than a year after Conservative councillor Judy Terry caused widespread concern by suggesting that the area should be redeveloped and the prefabs demolished.

The borough councillor with responsibility for housing, John Mowles, said the work should further extend the prefabs’ life – but it was not possible to say by how long at this point.

He did not want to put a figure on the cost of the work, but we understand more than £600,000 has been allocated to the renewal programme.

Mr Mowles said: “People love their homes in that part of the town, and while we are not guaranteeing they will always be there, it seems sensible to carry out the work to extend their lives at this time.

“We are building new homes in other parts of the town. It doesn’t seem sensible to start knocking down those homes at this stage.”

However opposition housing spokeswoman Mrs Terry insisted it would make more sense to redevelop the area, providing more homes and community facilities.

She said: “I know a lot of tenants struggle to deal with their large gardens and the houses themselves are difficult to heat – many have gaps around the windows.

“Some tenants do love them, but I’ve heard from many who would like to have a modern house in the area, but are afraid to say anything for fear of upsetting their neighbours.”

She said it would be possible to build a very sheltered housing development as well as a large number of traditional homes in the area – and possibly a new community shop as well.

“This is not a long-term solution. Eventually the prefabs will have to be replaced and it would make sense to make that decision now.”

Councillors and officials are due to visit the are on Monday to speak to residents to find out how they would like their homes improved.

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EADT writer David Vincent has more than 40 years experience in Suffolk. He has explored the highways and byeways of East Anglia, meeting homeowners, developers and estate agents from Bury St Edmunds to Aldeburgh and Colchester to Diss.