A coroner has advised that a major road at the foot of Aedas’ Bridgwater Tower in Leeds should be closed in high winds
The shock judgement was made by deputy West Yorkshire coroner Melanie Williamson at the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Edward Slaney in Leeds in March 2011. Slaney was hit by a lorry that witnesses told the inquest flew through the air ‘like a hot air balloon’.
Slaney died when a curtain-sided lorry took off during high winds around the base of the 30-storey, 122m-tall Bridgewater Place tower - the tallest building in Yorkshire.
In August the AJ reported that a ‘troubleshooter’ team of TP Bennett and Buro Happold was struggling to find a ‘comprehensive solution’ to the dangerous winds (AJ 02.09.13). Although a new canopy, baffles and screens have been proposed as possible solutions the coroner expressed frustration that no work has been carried out to date.
According to the Yorkshire Post, at the spot where Slaney died wind speeds reach up to around 45mph.
The road which Williamson recommended be closed is the main route into Leeds city centre from the south, including the M1 and M62 motorways but despite the logistical problems the Post reported Leeds City Council as promising to ‘strongly consider’ the recommendation.
The tower, which was completed in 2007, dominates the Leeds skyline but has been at the centre of a series of wind-related incidents including a policeman who was blown off his bike and 21 complaints from members of the public.
A witness told the inquest that the accident was ‘absolutely surreal’ as ‘all four wheels were off the ground and it seemed as if it was flying in the air.’
Two-and-a half years on the problem is still not resolved and Williamson said she would be calling on communities secretary Eric Pickles to make sure the planning process for tall building took into account the effect of wind for all road users in the area.
After the hearing, Martin Farrington, director of development for Leeds City Council, said: ‘We support the view of the coroner that the building’s owner needs to bring forward the wind mitigation measures that we have been pressing for for a very long time and we will continue to do so.
‘We note that the coroner agreed with our proposal that national guidance should be drawn up for local authorities when considering planning applications for tall buildings. We will consider very carefully her recommendation to close the junction during high wind speeds.’
Previous story (23.10.13)
Council knew of Aedas’ Bridgewater Place wind danger
Leeds City Council was aware that high winds at the base of Aedas’ Bridgewater Place tower were dangerous before the skyscraper was finished, an investigation by the BBC has revealed
According to emails seen by the broadcaster, council officer John Bleakley warned of ‘unprecedented’ wind gusts three months before the 32-storey building was opened in 2007.
In March 2011, Ed Slaney, 36, was killed when a lorry ‘floated through the air like a hot-air balloon’ in extreme winds and landed on him close to the landmark tower.
But concerns about wind forces at ground level had been raised by Bleakley years before the tragedy. In 2008 Bleakley sent another message saying: ‘You will not be surprised to learn that folk are being blown into the path of vehicles and a safety audit has revealed the need for some more [portable guard rails].’
Last month it emerged a ‘troubleshooter’ team of TP Bennett and Buro Happold was struggling to find a ‘comprehensive solution’ to the dangerous winds (see AJ 02.09.13), although it is understand a planning application for a canopy, baffles and screens will now be submitted before the end of the year.
Statement in full from Leeds City Council:
‘The wind-generated issues around Bridgewater Place continue to be the responsibility of the building’s owners to resolve. Ever since complaints began to be received, we’ve sought to ensure a comprehensive solution to the problem is identified and implemented. This has centred on the owners finding a permanent solution covering the immediate area around Bridgewater Place and also the public highway. Their correspondence at that time gave us confidence this matter was being treated seriously and urgently.
‘In addition to this, following site investigations and in direct response to the concerns being expressed about the risk of pedestrians being blown into the road, we installed concrete barriers and guard railing in April and July 2008. Overall approximately 180 metres of guardrail have been put in place around the building. The work to identify a comprehensive solution has involved highly specialist work and world-renowned consultants. Leeds City Council has jointly funded this work to ensure the appropriate solution is brought forward as soon as possible.
The appropriate solution has been elusive because of the complexity of the work involved
‘Ultimately, the latter has been elusive because of the complexity of the work involved. Because of the length of time being taken, the council employed further specialist consultants to explore options and pleasingly, a comprehensive solution was identified earlier this year. In recent times, the owners have confirmed they are now taking forward the design of the canopy, baffles and screens. Planning permission is expected by the end of this year.
‘None of the complaints received specifically related to vehicles and there were no injury accidents reported to the police relating to windy conditions. There was no indication a 7.5-tonne Heavy Goods Vehicle could be lifted off the ground and carried some distance, in such an urban and built-up environment.
‘In response to the tragic accident on 10 March 2011, the council has put in place additional measures including:
· a diversion for high-sided vehicles in windy conditions which has recently been replaced by a permanent ban for Heavy Goods Vehicles
· additional warning, pedestrian and cyclist signing
· 24-hour windspeed monitoring
· additional guard railing near to the Grove public house.
‘The council has expended significant resources to find a comprehensive solution to this problem which ultimately is the responsibility of the owners of Bridgewater Place.’