Page last updated at 13:56 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010

'Irresponsible' development leaves families homeless

Neil, Emma, Louis and Bessie Gorman
The family say they are 'devastated' by what has happened

Two families face having their homes demolished after work carried out without planning permission on a nearby property caused structural damage.

The trouble began when a developer excavated the basement of his Georgian terraced house in Camden, north London.

Within weeks cracks appeared in the adjoining house - and have now grown big enough to put a hand through.

The buildings are now unsafe to live in and Camden Council is applying for a demolition order on both houses.

Emma Gorman and her husband own the leasehold on a flat in one of the houses, where she brings up her two children Louis, 14, and nine-year-old Bessie.

She said: "They excavated a huge amount of mud from the basement - three skips a day during the summer.

"The first I knew something was wrong was when my neighbour [who owns the flat below them] became concerned because she suddenly had cracks.

"Then we got huge cracks in my daughter's bedroom."

Despite repeated requests for the owner to repair the damage, the extent is now so severe that an order for demolition remains the only option to guarantee public safety
Camden Council

Cracks are graded in severity by councils from one to 10, where 10 is 35mm wide (1.3in). The cracks in Mrs Gorman's house are currently 114mm (4.5in) wide.

"No-one walks past the house now without flinching in case something is about to fall on them," Mrs Gorman said.

"When a man from Camden Council came to look at them he jumped back in shock - and then left pretty quick."

The family left their home in July 2009 so repairs could be carried out.

By that time the front of the property was visibly bulging and it is no longer safe to enter.

Then last month Camden Council revealed the home they had lived in for 17 years had to be demolished.

Mrs Gorman, a school librarian, said: "It was absolutely devastating. I had a panic attack and I was gasping for breath.

"I could not understand how it has come to this point."

Camden Council and Mrs Gorman's insurance company have agreed to rebuild their home to the same period design.

But the insurance company is due to stop paying her rent on 17 April - meaning the family face paying for temporary accommodation on top of their mortgage while a lengthy rebuild happens.

Cracked wall
The cracks are now big enough to fit a hand through

"We just can't afford it," she said.

A Camden Council spokeswoman said: "We have great sympathy for both families. Damage to the properties at Agar Grove has been caused by irresponsible works by the owner of the property next door.

"We immediately took action, notifying the health and safety executive of our concerns and then serving a dangerous structure notice that required the owner to take action."

She continued: "Despite repeated requests for the owner to repair the damage, the extent is now so severe that an order for demolition remains the only option to guarantee public safety.

"We will work closely with the insurers to establish the best possible legal course of action."

The developer, Shohail Janjuha, could not be contacted for comment.



Print Sponsor


RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Basildon Evening Echo Planning chiefs are the real kings of our castles - 27 Feb 2010
Islington Gazette Grandma homeless as their King's Cross home crumbles - 26 Feb 2010


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific