Newburn flood-damaged flats: Demolition begins

Work begins on the demolition of the unstable block of flats

Demolition work has begun at a block of flats left close to collapse by flooding in Newcastle.

A stone platform has been built to allow heavy machinery to access Spencer Court in Newburn.

MGL Demolition is carrying out the work on behalf of developer Dunelm Homes. It is expected to take about two weeks.

At the scene

On a foggy, cold morning a solitary blue excavator moved into place in front of the teetering Spencer Court flats in Newburn.

Representatives from Dunelm Homes looked on silently as the flats they built less than seven years ago began to be slowly torn apart. The metal grabber crunched at the chimney before moving to the roof, quickly revealing the inside of the top floor flat like a dolls house.

Nancy Blake, from the residents association, said no-one expected the block to be demolished. "It's a catastrophe, I don't think anyone is expecting anything to come out of that building in one piece. The residents don't want to be here today. It's too painful for them."

The machine scooped out the inside of the building, sending brick work, cables and possessions to the ground where workmen retrieved personal items to put aside to be reclaimed, and organised what was left for recycling.

Families were moved from their homes after the building's foundations were washed away when a culvert collapsed on 25 September during flash floods.

An excavator with a reach of 34m (about 110ft) is being used to dismantle the building in a "safe and controlled way", MGL said.

The roof of the four-floor, eight-flat complex has been removed.

Nancy Blake, who lives in evacuated flats behind Spencer Court, said most residents did not want to watch their homes being flattened.

She said: "I've been out of my flat for months and watching this is heartbreaking.

"The residents watched their flats being built in 2006 and now just six years on they are coming down.

"People never thought they would be demolished so there are a lot of possessions still inside.

"It has been very stressful - I've done everything I can to dry out my property to move back in. I was about to move back in then the floods hit again in September."

MGL Demolition managing director, Mark Davison, said workers would try their best to salvage residents' possessions.

Newburn flats The foundations of the block of flats were exposed in the floods

Brian Manning, executive director of Dunelm Homes, said: "I'm shocked that apartments we built such a short time ago are having to come down it circumstances out of our control."

Residents of the eight flats are currently in temporary homes.

Neither Northumberland Estates, which owns the land where the culvert stands, or Dunelm Homes have admitted liability for the situation.

About 40 million litres (8.7m gallons) of water was pumped out of the estate after the downpours.

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