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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Cumbria house collapse was 'accident waiting to happen' - claim

A house which crumbled into a swollen river is expected to be razed to the ground by the end of today.

Egremont house photo
The house was demolished after part of it collapsed

Related: Building collapse shuts Cumbrian road

Engineers worked late into the night to demolish as much as they could of the Egremont property to avoid any more danger.

All four floors at the back of Mill House, on the banks of the River Ehen, collapsed into the river which became raging torrent after a weekend of torrential rain. Copeland council’s head of building control advised that the house should be demolished as it was in an unsafe condition and a potential danger to adjoining Vale View properties and passers by.

The busy road remains sealed off and closed.

But contrary to reports there has been no evacuation of Vale View residents whose homes also back on to the river.

As a precautionary measure, the occupants of two houses opposite stricken Mill House were advised to move to the back of the properties last night while demolition took place.

All that remained of Mill House early this morning was a shell, most of the gable end having been demolished last night. The rest of the building is to be removed very carefully in order not to damage the house next door owned by builder Vince McShane, who was on holiday at the time of the collapse.

Scaffolding was being put up around his house today and it is unlikely that he will be able to stay there until structural engineers give the all clear.

Malcolm McShane, who lives four doors from Mill House, said he had not been asked to evacuate and was not aware of any other Vale View residents who had.

Before the accident the Environment Agency sent divers into the river to carry out an inspection of a damaged weir which residents are blaming for the collapse.

Some have also claimed the house collapse could have been prevented had the Environment Agency acted sooner to plug the breach.

Residents said they had alerted the Environment Agency weeks ago but no work was carried out.

Nobody was inside the riverside home when the side facing the river crumbled away. The owner of the building, Ken O’Hara and his wife Belinda Taylor were staying four miles away at Blackbeck Hotel, near Beckermet, which they own.

Mr O’Hara said: “We have been onto the Environment Agency because the weir was broken – this has been going on for months now. The weir has collapsed and we have asked them to come and look to see what they can do. It’s just lucky that nobody was inside when it happened – it’s unbelievable looking at the house now.”

They live in the bottom two floors of the building and rent the top two out to Sellafield contractors, who were away for the Bank Holiday weekend.

Donald Eaton, of nearby Beck Green, said it was “just a matter of time” before something like this happened. He said: “The Environment Agency came last week to come to look at the damage – but nothing has been done.”

The Environment Agency has stressed it did not own the weir and had been working for several months to find out who does.

The agency said: “We are on site and will continue to work with the property owner, emergency services and Copeland Council to provide advice and guidance on flood risk. We are also looking at what temporary flood defences we could provide, to ensure we maintain the existing level of flood protection to properties in Egremont.”

The Environment Agency’s flood alert remained in place this morning, with between 10mm-20mm of rain expected over a six-hour period.


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