Safety probe into balcony collapse

A fireman helps a resident from their property and (below) police at the scene.
A fireman helps a resident from their property and (below) police at the scene.
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THE Health and Safety Executive has launched an investigation into why balconies collapsed at a Blackpool block of flats.

It came as housing chiefs in the resort say the shocking incident at Newby Place, Mereside, was down to a design fault dating back to when the homes were built in 1966.

Police at the scene of the collapsed at flats in Newby Palce.

Police at the scene of the collapsed at flats in Newby Palce.

Engineers have propped up balconies at five other blocks of flats across the resort which are of the same design – at Munster Avenue and Bristol Avenue in Bispham, Devonshire Court, Rodwell Walk in Grange Park and Stratford Place.

John Donnellon, service director for the built environment at Blackpool Council, said: “We have had a structural engineers report back which points to a fundamental design flaw and there was no way of predicting this collapse.

“It was not a maintenance issue.

“The balconies are concrete in a steel frame.

“If we were building this today we would have support both above the concrete and below the concrete, but in this case it was only below.”

Chief executive of Blackpool Coastal Housing Peter Jefferson said measures had been taken to reassure residents of their safety.

He said: “We are propping up all the properties which have similar balconies as a precaution and are writing and speaking to residents.

“We are not anticipating this will happen again, but we want to reassure residents.

“There is not a general issue with balconies, it is just this particular design.”

The council will also be warning other local authorities which may have the same type of balconies in their housing stock to be aware of the problems.

Tenants were lucky to escape with their lives when the second-storey walkway crashed inwards on Tuesday.

Firefighters had to rescue five residents from the upper floors, along with pets.

In total, 26 people were evacuated and put into temporary accommodation, or else went to stay with relatives.

Mr Jefferson said BCH would be working with all the tenants on an individual basis to find them long term alternative accommodation.

They have now been able to retrieve some of their belongings.

Council chiefs have not yet decided the future of the blocks, as to whether they will be repaired or pulled down.

Meanwhile residents at another block of flats are calling for their balconies to be inspected.

People living at Kipling Court say cracks have appeared in brickwork supporting one of their balconies.

Resident Christopher Astin said: “A lot of elderly people live here and are worried about the balconies.

“They say nothing has been done to them in 25 years, and there are cracks in some of the supporting brickwork.”

Eddie Miller, who lives on the ground floor, added: “Lumps of concrete have fallen from the balconies above.”

Mr Jefferson said the Kipling Court balconies were not the same design as the ones which had collapsed but they would be inspected.

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