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Wind death in Leeds prompts tower safety fears

11 March 11 18:00
Bridgewater Place

Questions have been asked about the safety of Leeds' tallest building after the death of man who was crushed by a lorry which blew over in strong winds.

The accident happened near to the 110m tall (360ft) Bridgewater Place, a building which architecture experts say has created a wind tunnel.

The council said there were wind effect issues and they were "looking urgently" at ways of "making the area safer".

The building owners said a wind tunnel analysis was done before construction.

The dead man, a 35-year-old from Calderdale, was walking on a bridge over the Aire on Neville Street when a curtain-sided lorry toppled over on Thursday afternoon.

He was hit by the falling vehicle and taken to Leeds General Infirmary where he later died.

A 22-year-old woman from Leeds was also injured and is said to be in a stable condition in hospital.

The tallest part of the tower block is side-on to the river, along which the prevailing wind blows.

'Unforeseen wind issues'

Dr Lindsay Smales, senior lecturer in building, planning and geography at Leeds Metropolitan University, said: "Unfortunately I don't think there's a great deal you can do once you've built a tall building like that to mitigate the problems of micro climate and the effect of the wind.

"The reason why it's a problem is because they're often large slab buildings. The wind hits them and then just goes straight down to the ground because it can't go around."

Tim Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, said as part of the original planning application, a wind assessment was carried out on behalf of the developer, which indicated "the impact the building would have on wind speed would be minimal".

He added: "However, since the building was completed, there have been unforeseen wind effect issues around it."

Mr Riordan said developers and architects were undertaking work with a wind engineering consultancy to identify the "most effective solution to resolve the ongoing issues".

He added: "Following the tragedy on Thursday afternoon, however, we are looking urgently at other ways of making the area safer."

The building owners and original developers, Bridgewater Place Ltd, said all building and planning regulations had been fully adhered to.

"As part of the requirements for obtaining planning permission, Leeds City Council specifically requested that a comprehensive wind tunnel analysis was conducted to assess the effect of the building on the surrounding area."

West Yorkshire Police are also investigating how the lorry came to overturn.

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