Maydew House in October 2020
Maydew House has been a shell for several years (image: Google)

A 26-storey tower block close to rail lines to London Bridge will finally be demolished after sitting empty for more than seven years.

Thousands of SE London commuters pass the stripped-out Maydew House, in Bermondsey, each day. Southwark Council had spent £15.2 million refurbishing the block after moving residents out in 2015 following the discovery of asbestos. Today Southwark confirmed that the eerie block would be knocked down instead.

Kieron Williams, the leader of Southwark Council told a cabinet meeting that rising building costs meant refurbishment of the block, which overlooks Southwark Park, no longer made sense.

He said: “Having seen the world of housing change dramatically since we set out on this journey, it does feel that we are in a place where refurbishing is no longer a sensible option.

“It would end up in homes that are not ideal homes, in terms of the size and the nature of the homes, and a very expensive building. We can provide better for that amount of money.”

Render of scrapped Maydew House plans
The project included building a new block next door (Image: Haworth Tompkins)

Southwark spent over half of the £15.2 million on stripping the brutalist block back to its structure and planning for the renovation works. The rest of the money was used to build a new substation, a “heating infrastructure diversion”, the demolition of a podium, sheeting for scaffolding, security for the building and on obtaining a legal agreement with a building contractor.

As recently as 2019 officials expected the refurbishment of Maydew House, on the Abbeyfield estate, to cost just over £42.1 million. But two years later, the estimated costs of the works ballooned to over £68.6 million, according to council documents.

Darren Merrill, Southwark’s cabinet member for council homes and homelessness, said rising costs had made the refurbishment of the tower “impossible”.

He added: “We have done everything we can looking at saving or refurbishing this estate. It has just become – the latest economic finances we are in – impossible to refurbish this estate.”

Under the original plans for Maydew House, the Bede Centre – a charity for young people with learning difficulties based on the estate – would have got a new home. Merrill said he was committed to working with the charity to allow it to remain in the area.

Plans to refurbish two other blocks on the estate, Damory House and Thaxted Court, and to create 28 extra council homes have also been shelved due to rising construction costs. The two blocks could now be bulldozed and redeveloped if residents support the plan in a ballot.

Additional reporting by Darryl Chamberlain

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Robert Firth is the Local Democracy Reporter for Lewisham. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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