In May 2012 a second floor walkway collapsed and miraculously no-one was killed or injured. Resident Andrew Bleasedale returned home from the shops at Newby Place in Mereside, Blackpool on the day and felt the balcony move under his feet as he was opening his front door. He dived into his flat and watched as the walkway fell literally under his feet. Many residents including Andrew were trapped in their homes and had to be rescued by emergency services after a gas pipe was fractured in the collapse.
Blackpool Costal Housing the council-led company who are responsible for 5,000 properties took over responsibility for the flats in January 2007 and they were made aware of the issues residents had with the balconies five years before the collapse. Mr Bleasedale said “I made complaints about the condition of the balcony several times before the collapse as it was leaning to the extent I felt I needed to walk near the wall because of the slope”.
Between 2007 and 2012 BCH received expert advice from multiple sources but didn’t action any of them. The council had arranged for a structural engineer to carry out a survey of the walkways after a worker noticed fixings from some handrails pulling away from the wall. Tests were arranged and confirmed structural problems with the balconies at both Newby Place and two neighbouring blocks of flats. The council were alerted to the need for major repairs and despite senior staff being aware no repairs were carried out.
Eventually during the month of the collapse BCH started work to replace the balconies and during the project the site manager reported his safety concerns but again no other action was taken to ensure residents safety.
Judge Stuart Baker said it was an “accident waiting to happen” and “It is extremely fortunate this incident did not result in death or serious injury”. The company accepted that they had made mistakes and one employee was dismissed after the incident and another resigned. Blackpool Costal Housing was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £27,821.25 in additional costs.
The balconies have now been replaced with robust structures at a cost of £3.4m.
If you’ve been injured in an accident through no fault of your own make sure you pick the right solicitor and give Accident Advice Helpline a call on 0800 689 0500. The friendly advisors will talk through your claim and advise you if you could seek compensation.
Source: Daily Star
Date Published: August 4, 2014
Author: David Brown