Shock at safety failings

A balcony has collapsed at flats in Newby Palce.
A balcony has collapsed at flats in Newby Palce.
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Residents of flats where a balcony collapsed said they warned housing bosses many times before the terrifying incident.

Blackpool Coastal Housing (BCH) pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to ensure the safety of residents, putting them at risk of injury or death, after a balcony collapsed at a block on Newby Place, Mereside.

Blackpool Magistrates Court heard how the incident happened in May 2012, despite one resident writing letters about their safety fears every month for five years.

A senior BCH staff member also witnessed the problem.

Residents today told The Gazette they were pleased BCH had pleaded guilty, but were shocked nothing had been done sooner to prevent the collapse.

Now BCH is set to appear at Preston Crown Court where it could face a hefty fine.

Earnest Alsop, 67, who has lived at Newby Place for 27 years, told how he warned BCH staff of structural problems for years.

He said: “It was very lucky no-one was hurt that day, it was an almighty crash.

“No-one’s ever come to say sorry, though.

“I think it’s good they’ve (BCH) been found out, the balconies should have been sorted sooner.

“It’s neglect on the part of whoever is in charge.”

Neighbour Barry Farmer, 70, added: “It’s a bit below the belt things like that happening, it was a shock to the system.”

Residents associations in the neighbourhood have told how they also wrote to BCH bosses about the problem and were assured it had been looked at.

Bruce Allen, treasurer of Mereside Residents Association and a retired engineer, said: “It was perfectly obvious it was loose, the platform was at an angle.

“Which engineers said it was safe?

“It needed a specialist engineer to look at it.”

The case will now go to Preston Crown Court, where unlimited fines can be imposed at sentencing on May 21.

BCH’s barrister Dewi ap Thomas said that larger fines would have to be paid for by increases in rent for residents as this was the firm’s only form of income.