Residents at a London apartment complex have shared their fears after it emerged scores of balconies are at risk of collapse.
Some 77 balconies at the Weaver’s Quarter on the Gascoigne estate in Barking are being investigated after one of them partially collapsed onto the pavement below last week.
Kinga Surowka feared someone could have been killed when parts of her upstairs neighbour’s balcony landed in her front yard on 11 November.
“I was in shock,” she told The Independent. “There was a metal panel just hanging off. I didn’t know what else was going to fall.
“It fell outside the entrance to the flats. We were very lucky this happened late at night. This was a first floor balcony, imagine if it happened from the fifth floor, imagine the impact. Imagine it happened at 8.30am, kids pass by here every day to go to school. If you pass by here at 3.30pm, the streets are filled with kids.”
Mrs Surowka lives with two children, aged two and five, on the estate where builder Bouygues had already carried out repairs to 56 balconies since 2021. Now residents have been told that 77 balconies could require work, with scaffolding to go up at each one.
Matt Lismore, leader of the Weaver’s Quarter Residents Association, claimed his concerns over the balconies had previously been ignored adding that this was the fourth instance of a balcony collapsing.
His partner, Preeti Atwal, said she didn’t feel safe and felt conscious using facilities such as the communal underground garage. On a previous incident, she said: “A bit of the roof flew off and landed in the street. It was flapping in the wind for ages.”
Residents are also anxious about where liability lies, whether they will be forced to pay for any further damage and if will be able to sell their homes.
Ms Atwal said: “When you buy a house, you expect it to be at the quality it’s advertised at. You don’t expect it to fall down.”
Tamas Sebok, a radiographer, who has lived in the development since it was built in 2019, said: “I am very angry. It’s purely by luck that someone hasn’t been killed yet.
“There is no sense of urgency. Every day there are so many children playing outside in the courtyard – you never know when a balcony could collapse and fall on them.
“The balconies are not the only problem – people in this building have had problems with leaky toilets. Their floors were rotten and [they’ve] had to pay to get their flooring replaced.”
Housing association L&Q worked with the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham to regenerate part of the then Gascoigne Estate, acting as a development manager and then leasing shared ownership flats in four buildings. L&Q does not own or manage buildings at this development but it has served noticed on Bouygues to carry out works on a number of balconies. Barking and Dagenham Council owns a number of properties at the site, managing them via its housing company, BD Reside.
A council spokesperson said: “On the evening of 11 November, the underside of a balcony’s facade on the Weaver’s Quarter estate in Barking collapsed. Thankfully no one was hurt. Although it did not affect the structural integrity of the building, it was a horrifying experience for the people living there and represents a risk to people who may be passing by.”
The council is now in discussions with Bouygues “to impress on them the need to take urgent action”, as its own housing company arranges works to reduce the risks, the spokesperson added.
L&Q also said it was working with BD Reside and Bouygues to address current issues.
Customer and quality director, Ilan Shapiro, said: “We take resident safety extremely seriously. L&Q doesn’t own or manage buildings at Weavers Quarter, and doesn’t have maintenance responsibilities. However there are L&Q shared owners in four buildings on the estate, and we are committed to working with BD Reside and Bouygues to address these issues for all residents given our role as development manager for the scheme.
“In 2021, we received a report about an issue with a balcony at an L&Q residents home. This led to estate-wide investigations and Bouygues repairing 56 balconies across the estate. In August 2023, we were concerned to hear that more issues had emerged. We worked with BD Reside to carry out more inspections, and have been in discussions with Bouygues about starting a wider programme of works.
“We are very concerned by the recent incident. We will keep our residents updated on progress and have asked that they do not use their balconies further notice.”
A spokesperson for Bouygues UK said: “Following the incident at Weaver’s Quarter Estate, where some soffit boards detached and fell from a balcony, our main concern has been ensuring residents’ safety.
“We are working hard with Reside to take immediate action, put the necessary safety measures in place and undertake appropriate remediation works.”