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6th August 2014

Landlord fined £50K over Blackpool balcony collapse

A Blackpool housing firm, responsible for block of flats in Merseyside, has been fined £50,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £27,821.25  after a second floor walkway collapsed.

A resident was standing on the walkway about to enter his flat as the floor beneath his feet gave way. He was able to dive into his flat and escaped uninjured. The resident said he had previously complained about the condition of the balcony several times before the collapse.

Blackpool Coastal Housing Ltd was prosecuted by HSE on 1 August 2014 after an investigation found that the company had known the walkways were dangerous for several years, but had failed to act to make them safe.

The Court heard that Blackpool Coastal Housing had taken over responsibility for the flats from Blackpool Borough Council in January 2007. The council had previously arranged for a structural engineer to carry out a survey of the walkways after a worker noticed some of the fixings for the handrails had pulled away from the wall.

Further tests were arranged, which identified structural problems with the balconies and the need for major repairs. However, Blackpool Coastal Housing failed to carry out any repairs – despite many of the senior staff who knew about the structural issues transferring to the new organisation, along with relevant files, when it was set up in 2007.

The court was told that the company eventually appointed a structural engineering consultant to design a temporary propping solution for the balconies in September 2008. However, his recommendations were also not implemented. Instead, in March 2009, temporary scaffolding was erected under some of the balconies, although it is unlikely this would have been capable of supporting them if they fell.

The court also heard that the company misled HSE about its knowledge of the structural flaws that led to the collapse during  the investigation into the incident, until documents were recovered from as far back as February 2006.

Blackpool Coastal Housing Ltd, of Abingdon Street in Blackpool, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £27,821.25 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The HSE inspector involved in the case said: “The emergency services had to rescue several people from their properties as a result of the collapse, but it’s incredible no one was hurt. We could easily have been dealing with multiple deaths.

“It’s breath-taking that Blackpool Coastal Housing was prepared to take a prolonged gamble with the safety of its tenants at three blocks of flats. The company fell significantly below minimum legal standards for safety, and made a series of bad decisions in its response to the concerns about the balconies over several years.’’

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