Newcastle floods: likely demolition for unstable flats

Spencer Court in Newburn Angry residents did not know demolition of the flats in Newburn was being considered

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Flood-damaged flats in Newcastle which are close to collapse are likely to be demolished, engineers have said.

Floodwater gouged out ground beneath Spencer Court, Newburn, on Tuesday, exposing the piles holding it up and badly damaging foundations.

Residents attending a public meeting reacted angrily to the news the flats might have to be pulled down.

On Thursday two further blocks of council flats were evacuated amid fears Spencer Court could collapse.

Analysis

At a heated public meeting residents were shocked to be told the Spencer Court flats in Newburn are set to be demolished.

An engineer working for Northumberland Estates said an inspection this afternoon revealed they are likely to be beyond saving.

However, the homeowners said that was the first they had heard of demolition plans.

The mood in the meeting at Walbottle School hall became increasingly tense as locals vented anger at having worthless houses.

They suggested homes should never have been built there.

Residents of Hareside Walk and Hareside Close had been allowed home but were asked to leave again.

Housing company Your Homes Newcastle - which manages council housing for Newcastle City Council - said it took the decision in the interests of residents' safety.

Mick Murphy, technical director at Newcastle City Council, said after the meeting: "Engineers assessments say that it's unsafe and probably unsafe to try and repair."

Kate Scaife, who lives in Spencer Court, said: "To find out in a public meeting was shocking. To everybody else it's bricks and mortar, but to us it's home and it hurts."

Caroline Charlton, who lives in Mill Vale, said: "There's a lot of upset people and for us poor residents we're going to be stuck in the middle of a long legal battle between landowners.

"Who would want to buy our houses? They're lovely homes but who would take the risk? I certainly wouldn't."

Paul Nicholson, also lives in Mill Vale, he said: "We've had enough upheaval over the last few months, we need to walk away from this now because I've got a five-year-old and a one-year-old and I don't feel that it's safe anymore."

Inspection report

A culvert near the damaged flats collapsed in May but the force of floodwater on Monday eroded soil and a waterfall formed close to the flats.

Developer Dunelm Homes owns the land on which the homes stand, while the culvert is on land owned by Northumberland Estates.

Neither company has accepted liability.

Northumberland Estates said it was working hard to find a long-term solution but said there was little it could do "in the face of such very extreme weather conditions until the culvert can be cleared".

Dunelm Homes said it was attending emergency meetings and providing whatever assistance and support it could.

Mr Murphy said the flats at Spencer Court were "extremely unstable".

Engineers for Northumberland Estates told the public meeting an inspection had been carried out and the report was expected to confirm the flats are beyond saving.

'Matter of time'

Greg Blyth, a resident of Spencer Court, said earlier: "I don't think they should have built on this ground.

The foundations of the block of flats were almost washed away in the floods

"The whole place needs knocking down because it's very, very unsafe and it's a matter of time before everything does go."

Newcastle City Council, which said planning permission had been given because the plans were right for the ground, is looking at how well the culvert was maintained.

Mr Murphy added: "You can build in most places as long as you take the right engineering steps. An engineer has taken account of poor ground because they've used those long piles."

Northumbria Police made the decision to evacuate the area on Tuesday after what the Met Office called the most intense September storms for 30 years.

Residents of Mill Vale were allowed back in for a short time to collect valuables on Wednesday.

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