In 2017, Crawley Homes – the borough council’s housing arm – planned a programme of work for the flats, in Pound Hill, such as replacing fire doors, upgrading communal and emergency lighting and installing CCTV.
But reports from residents about extremely low water pressure in the flats made it clear that the cold water mains also needed replacing.
Among the issues raised were: baths taking 40 minutes to run, toilet cisterns not filling if someone was trying to wash their hands at the sink, and washing machines stopping if any taps are used.
A report presented to a meeting of the overview and scrutiny commission said the work, which is expected to start in January, would cost around £1.9m.
While 75 of the 146 flats belong to Crawley Homes – meaning their portion of the cost will be paid for via the Housing Revenue Account, the other 71 are leasehold and will have to foot their part of the bill.
A council spokesman said that the service charge demands of £13,000 were expected to go out to leaseholders in April but the deadline for payment would be extended to 2024 rather than 2023.
The commission had asked for an update on the situation to make sure the cost of the work was reasonable and that other, cheaper, options had been explored.
It also asked for assurances that the problems with the mains were to do with the existing pipework and not because the building’s mains pressure had been lowered.
Both of these assurances were given in the officer’s report.
Members were told that the council’s initial proposal to Southern Water had been to install 18 cold water mains risers, supplied by a ring main below ground, splitting off to serve each flat.
But, while this would have been the least impactful way of doing things, Southern Water deemed it unacceptable as it would result in internal rather than external metering.
It was agreed that two large external risers would ‘tee off’ and enter the building at each floor and into each flat.
Planning permission for a single-storey building next to the flats to house water pumps and the pipework risers was granted in November.
Officer told the meeting they were dealing with the situation ‘as sensitively as we can’ and the work would be carried out ‘in the best possible way, the cheapest possible way’.
The work is expected to take six months to complete.