THE REMAINING residents of a town centre block of flats have been evacuated after Woking Borough Council issued an Emergency Prohibition Order on the building.

Citing “structural collapse and falling elements” hazards, the order, issued under the Housing Act 2004, “prohibits the use of the property known as Eastgate, Station Approach, for residential purposes and the use of the commercial units for commercial activity”.

Expanding on the thinking behind the order, the council added: “The preliminary results and appraisal report written by the structural engineers indicates that the core samples taken and tested to date indicate issues with the concrete used in the construction of the building.

“The receipt of photographic evidence of the nature of new core samples taken from the building show severely compromised concrete within the building.”

Residents of Eastgate,  a single block containing 61 homes completed in September 2005, were asked a fortnight ago to vacate the building after it was found to have structural defects and deemed not safe to be occupied.

They had been given a letter from leaseholder Southern Housing telling them “to evacuate immediately in the interests of your safety”.

Some residents, however, initially opted to stay behind, but now they too must leave. In total, about 100 residents are thought to be affected.

Many have been relocated to nearby hotel accommodation or are living with family and friends. 

A spokesman for Southern Housing said: “Our remaining residents were asked to immediately evacuate the building for their safety.

“We have now rehoused all our residents in temporary accommodation where needed. Security staff will remain in place 24/7, protecting the building and residents’ homes.”

The original letter to residents continued: “We will be undertaking further investigations to inform our next steps in relation to the building.”

One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, contacted the News & Mail to tell their story.

“Residents were immediately sent to the Premier Inn and the Travelodge, but it has been Southern Housing’s intention to move residents to rented accommodation in the next few days. 

“Some people have been offered places in Guildford, Chertsey and Farnborough as there are not enough suitable places in Woking. Some are still in hotel accommodation while this is being negotiated. 

“But the disruption to residents is huge; families with children at school in Woking have been displaced, pets have been put into catteries and kennels for an unknown period of time, residents with ongoing medical needs have been sent far away from where their regular hospital appointments take place. 

“Residents are being allowed back into the building by appointment, in one-hour slots only, to take small items with them. It is not known when they will be able to access the majority of their belongings.” 

Cllr Liam Lyons, who represents Mount Hermon and was a resident of Eastgate, said: “The sudden disruption to family life by being told immediately to leave your home, and the uncertainty over their long-term future, is causing residents a lot of anxiety.

“There has always been a strong sense of community in Eastgate and residents are keeping in contact and supporting each other as we work with Southern Housing to find a way forwards.”