News / 26 November, 2015

‘Ban basement excavations’: mother and toddler narrowly escape injury in ceiling collapse

Father points finger of blame at council for approving ‘dangerous and disruptive’ basement excavations

Wilberforce Road, Brownswood, Hackney, ceiling collapse basement excavation

Deep concern: father outraged that council granted planning permission for basements on each side of his property. Photograph: Tim Smith

A father is calling on Hackney Council to ban basement excavations after a ceiling collapsed over the spot where his two-year-old son had been playing just hours before.

Cracks in the bedroom ceiling grew larger after works began on a basement next door to his home at 88a Wilberforce Road, Tim Smith claims.

“This is a direct consequence of the planning consent granted by Hackney Council for this type of dangerous and disruptive excavation work.”

“My young son George had been playing directly beneath the collapse hours earlier and could have been seriously injured if not killed.”

Mr Smith, 56, told the Hackney Citizen the ceiling caved in while his partner, Julia Muthusamy, 41, was sleeping just metres away.

“A piece of plaster fell on her hip and bruised it. But it could have seriously injured her or killed our son if they had been directly underneath.”

Wilberforce Road, Brownswood, Hackney, ceiling collapse basement excavation

Debris from the collapsed ceiling carpets the floor. Photograph: Tim Smith

Continuing stress

Mr Smith, who is a builder himself, does not hold the developers responsible for the incident. “I don’t have a problem with the builders or developers. They are doing their job and they’re doing it well,” he said.

Instead he points the finger of blame at Hackney Council for approving the excavation in the first place.

“It’s a total nightmare. We are facing continuing stress and shock due to the upheaval and repairs. This is something that the council’s planning department has to take on board.”

Last year Mr Smith joined forces with neighbours to protest against the basement excavations along the street. The group was protesting over the noise and disruption caused by what they said was “excessive overdevelopment”.

But the council approved the plans to dig down at number 86 Wilberforce Road despite concerns by residents.

One year on, Mr Smith is now calling on the council to ban basement extensions entirely.

“We want to see a total ban on this type of excavation across the whole borough – and to avoid another accident that may prove to be fatal.”

A spokesperson for Bostall Architectural Services which is carrying out the works said: “We are experienced developers and have carried out excavations of this kind for many years.

“Prior to the works, neighbours were consulted and party wall agreements were drawn up to deal with such issues.”

Bostall says it followed due diligence procedure, employing an independent surveyor to assess the condition of the party wall – a partition between two adjoining buildings – before the works began.

“In this particular case, the ceiling of the neighbouring property was previously blown as the owner has noted. All works to the party wall are complete, and have been for many weeks.”

Hackney Council has not responded to a request for comment.

/ 26 November, 2015
  • John Mc Bride

    Hackney Council must address these issues immediately! Hackney Council planning department has ignored serious protests against these reckless excavations for years. Hackney Council must ban dangerous basement excavations now before a hackney resident is killed.

  • Christine Minty

    These houses are already about 140 years old and many have suffered subsidence during very dry summers (which the insurers put down to inadequate foundations, although they were in line with the requirements at the time). Quote apart from the endless noise and dust these works cause, cumulatively they may endanger the area generally. Other councils have banned such works: Hackney should follow suite.

  • stinky

    I chuckle at the thought of all you middle class nicey’s £1000000 houses crumbling around you, shame it affects the rest of us sometimes but smugness has its
    just deserts

  • John Mc Bride

    Stinky’s comment could do with a little clarification.

    The change we are witnessing involves developers and their Investment company backers introducing an element of “social cleansing ” through the power of money.

    The three most recent excavations have involved the eviction of unprotected tenants some of whom have been living in this road for 30 years. One of whom died of a heart attack shortly after being evicted. There were around 15 low income unprotected tenants evicted to make way for the last 3 excavation projects. These will become unaffordable unsustainable housing for wealthy people. Nothing to do with addressing any housing crisis, nothing to do with “tarting up my middle class house”. Everything to do with making large amounts of money for private Investment companies.

    There remain 6 or 7 social housing rental properties in this road all split into flats, some council some housing association. The social housing tenants are concerned that they too will be evicted, a “secure” tenancy is nominal when it comes to politics.

    Hackney Council still refuse to comment. We want to see this dangerous and anti social excavation work restricted and effectively controlled. A limit on the number of excavations per street would be a start.


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