CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Beware Belsize Park site – it’s a risk to the public

07 February, 2019

The unfinished “Considerate Constructors” site in Belsize Park at 9.15am on January 25

• THE unfinished “Considerate Constructors” development next to Belsize Park tube station remains unfinished, around a year after building began on the narrow strip of land originally occupied by shed-like shops which mysteriously burned down.

The current contractors, who replaced previous contractors , occasionally appear on site to do a little bit of who knows what. Meanwhile, because the concrete shell remains clad with metal scaffolding, mobile phone and Relish broadband wireless reception remains disrupted.

The scaffolding still overhangs the pathway next to the site, which is heavily used by the public to access Camden’s Russell Nurseries housing estate, the tennis club and nature reserve pathway to Lawn Road. Groups of children are taught about nature in the reserve.

Towards the end of last year, a couple of workmen tried, with loosely knotted ropes, to hoist huge metal scaffolding poles up from the pathway to the top of the shell, and over the heads of unsuspecting pedestrians.

How could such an obvious risk to be public be allowed? Because, according to Camden’s gaggle of buck-passing, confusion-creating, safety watchdogs, the scaffolding needs no licence because it is “legally not classified as public highway”.

After many months of my nagging and photographic evidence, Camden Council now acknowledges that the pathway is heavily used by the public and “appears to be public”; and Camden’s army of lawyers have now established that the pathway is “council-owned land”.

But it is “not housing land” and all those lawyers have still not been able to establish “who maintains” the pathway. So they don’t know who needs “permissions” to do dangerous things on or over it.

Presumably with a straight face, Camden’s head of engineering services and building control (delegated by Camden’s chief executive to handle the formal complaint I filed on grounds of public safety) advises that anyone who notices any dangerous things happening, such as hoisting heavy scaffolding over the heads of people using the Camden-owned pathway, should “report it to the Health and Safety Executive at concerns@hse.gov.uk”.

So we should report immediate danger by email? Yes, says the head, “I stand by my advice”.

The same head sees no shortcomings in the way any of the many buck-passers have muddled the matter (or more likely been told by Camden’s lawyers not to make any admissions) but assures that Camden’s “streetworks team will work with the contractors to ensure safety is maintained” and “at this point however there are no plans to use the land”.

Three days after he wrote this I took photos (see above), at 9.15am. A large lorry in the pathway is craning heavy pallets of building material while pedestrians squeeze by.

So Camden’s publicly-used pathway has effectively become a building site, but without the tiresome need to wear hard hats and protective boots and clothing.

There is now no more I can do, except pledge that the next time there is a tragic accident on a building site in Camden I shall offer any inquiry sight of the thick file of correspondence on all this, with no names redacted.

BARRY FOX
Holmefield Court, NW3

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