CROSS Safety Report
This report is over 2 years old
Concerns were raised after several arches of an undercroft style structure in a conservation area were demolished, apparently without consent.
Key Learning Outcomes
For all built environment professionals:
Good collaboration and communication across departments and organisations can ensure the relevant information is provided and raised to prevent unsafe conditions from arising
Where demolition works are required it is good practice to provide knowledge and history of the structure, including form, materials of construction, structural interactions, and location
Be aware that demolition is an activity that can require as much engineering competence as does building work
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Several arches of an undercroft style structure in a conservation area were demolished, apparently without consent, leaving one standing which was used as a garage below and giving vehicular access to a multi-occupancy house above. The arches carried a road and, according to the reporter, the situation was very dangerous.
They says that the Highways section of the local authority secured the retaining wall at the back of the arches to stabilise the elevated road but without any concern for the building next door. Local authority building control was then informed, but the house is divided into several flats with a number of different owners and this presented difficulties in communications.
The local authority advised that the driveway above the arch, which is used for parking, should not be used until analysis and safety remedial works were completed. The local authority had difficulty in serving a dangerous structure notice as they were unsure who owned the arch.
The local authority had difficulty in serving a dangerous structure notice as they were unsure who owned the arch.
The situation demonstrated how unauthorised demolition of apparently redundant old masonry structures impinged on the safety of both a public highway and a multi-occupancy dwelling. Fortunately, a collapse was averted.
Expert Panel Comments
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The key learning point from this report is that stability cannot be considered in isolation. The demolition contractor should have taken account of the ‘whole’ and ascertained the role of adjacent structures, and the consequence should they be demolished or altered in some way.
CROSS has received a number of reports about dangerous demolition which is an activity that can require as much engineering competence as does building work. Dangerous retaining walls and the like do not fall comfortably into the remit of building control and dangerous structures whose ownership is unclear can be problematic. However, there are provisions under the Building Act section 78 for action to be taken by the local authority.
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