Ukrainian and Afghan refugees will not be housed in commercial units converted into apartments until the issue of crumbling concrete in a shopping mall has been fixed.

An £8million plan to house the migrants in what are currently empty shop units at Altrincham’s Grafton Centre and above three shops in Urmston has been approved by Trafford council’s executive.

Liberal Democrat councillors last week expressed concern over the plans when it was revealed that the Grafton facility and the shops on Crofts Bank Road in Urmston contained reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete in both buildings.

However, Trafford’s executive member for housing and advice Coun James Wright told an executive meeting that there had never been any intention to house refugees in either building until the crumbling concrete issues had been remedied.

He said the plans was to a ‘provide a prudent and sensible long-term approach towards procuring  much needed, secure and long-term accommodation for refugees fleeing war and persecution’.

Coun Wright said the provision would ‘not be to the detriment to people currently on the housing register’ and that eventually the properties would become council stock and would enhance Trafford’s temporary accommodation supply.

He said that the council had been aware of the presence of RAAC at Crofts Bank Road in 2020 and has been made safe since then.

“The RAAC at Grafton was discovered during survey work during the summer. The plan was to replace the roofs in the properties. There was never a question of not replacing the RAAC, it is part of the planned works.”

He said further surveys and reports were awaited before a planning application could be submitted before the end of September for the work to be done.

Council leader Coun Tom Ross described the scenario as ‘a good news story’ because once the work had been completed the properties would remain as the authority’s housing stock.

“Clearly RAAC has caused a lot of concern for a lot of people across the country in recent weeks and we have to be very careful about how we inform the public.”

Coun Liz Patel also voiced ‘disappointment’ over Lib Dem suggestions that the council was considering housing refugees in anything other than safe housing conditions.

“It is absolutely not the case,” she said, “and never will be.”

If the future plans are approved, there will be 10 apartments at the Grafton Centre comprising two and four-bed homes in redundant commercial premises and three two-bed flats at Crofts Bank Road in Urmston above shops 9a to 9c.

The Grafton Centre already contains two residential properties, one of which is currently occupied, and the other is allocated to the refugee scheme.

Responding, to the criticism, Lib Dem leader Coun Shaun Ennis said: “Let me say very clearly that we did write to officers and members of the executive.

“The briefing we received indicated that the Crofts Bank Road properties had been made safe, but there was no mention of the Grafton Centre being made safe.”

Coun Wright fired back: “If you have written to me, I haven’t received it. In relation to the RAAC Grafton, we would never house anyone, let alone refugees, in unsafe conditions.

“The RAAC will be remedied long before any refugees are accommodated there.”