Owners fined for Tooting house collapse
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Local Government
Owners fined for Tooting house collapse
The owners of a house in Tooting that collapsed into a pile of bricks and rubble earlier this year, badly damaging a neighbouring property and causing major transport disruption throughout the
area, have been fined for breaching building safety rules.
The owners, a web-based lettings agency called Simply Letting London.com, were fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,200 when they appeared before South Western Magistrates.
Their three-story property in Trinity Road collapsed in April as a result of unauthorised building works they had started.
Builders working on their behalf had begun excavating a basement at the property, using a mechanical digger, when the whole structure toppled over.
None of the works had received planning permission and no approvals had been sought under building regulations.
The neighbouring property was so badly damaged as a result of the collapse that the party wall had to be removed and the entire building shored up by council engineers under emergency procedures.
The work of the council's engineers to save the adjacent building, which went on for 24 hours continuously, was seriously hampered by a fractured gas pipe in the basement of the stricken building, which had to be located, excavated and then capped before work could begin on saving the shop and flats next door.
Trinity Road was shut to all traffic near the junction with Tooting High Street for three days, until all the debris had been cleared from the carriageway.
Magistrates heard that the building, which stood on the corner of Trinity Road and Chetwode Road, toppled over just after 3.45pm on Tuesday, April 29.
Around half an hour beforehand, workmen inside the property realised that the building was at risk and called the emergency services. Firefighters then called in the council's building control team, which deals with all dangerous structures in the borough.
Town hall building inspectors arrived very quickly and after an initial examination realised the building was in imminent danger. Within a few moments of their arrival it had collapsed.
The collapse sent rubble and scaffolding across pavements and the road surface.
Simply Letting London.com, based in Tooting Bec Road, admitted two offences under The Building Act 1984 for failing to apply for building regulations approval for the proposed works and also for failing to notify the building control team that the works had commenced. A written plea of guilty was submitted by the company's managing director Brian Crainey.
Planning chairman Councillor Leslie McDonnell said: "It was only by sheer good luck and fortune that no-one was killed in this shocking incident. Trinity Road is an extremely busy place, especially during the rush hour, and many cars and buses would normally have been queuing in traffic at this location.
"Luckily the alarm was raised in the nick of time and the emergency services were able to cordon off the area. One shudders to think what might have happened if the builders had left the site for the day and gone home when the building started to weaken.
"The people behind this whole episode showed an utterly cavalier attitude to their responsibilities.
"No planning consent had been obtained for this basement extension and nor had any building regulations approval been sought for the methods they were going to use to excavate this space.
"The building regulations are there to make sure that construction work is safe and that the building methods proposed will work and not cause the kind of awful outcome we saw here.
"I hope this case sends out a clear message to property owners and people in the building trade that carrying out work without the necessary approvals can easily put people's lives at risk."
The above photos show the scene of devastatation after the collapses with rubble and scaffolding strewn across Trinity Road and Chetwode Road.