The London Borough of Enfield has been accused of ignoring warnings after part of a concrete balcony from a 1960s housing block fell 12 storeys and crashed onto a pavement last week.
The incident has sparked a row between residents and the local authority over the safety of this and 150 other similar balconies. The one tonne panel which fell from Dover House made a crater, but no one was hurt.
Architect and tower resident, Haroulla Koukoulli, saw the balcony's front panel fall past her window. Her husband, Malcolm Rowe, also an architect, has taken the council to task on the matter.
Rowe accuses Enfield of failing act to rectify problems with the building's condition on two occasions. The first came in 1994 when his wife received a letter from the council announcing the removal of defective concrete and a series of concrete surveys and tests. Rowe said that these works were never carried out and the council itself has no record of carrying out the surveys. Secondly, Rowe claims to have handed the council a 'commentary' on the condition of the building, drawing the structural problems to its attention. This was subsequently ignored, according to Rowe.
However, the council commissioned its own independent structural survey at the beginning of last year, which revealed that work needed to be done but 'did not indicate any structural defects which would give rise to such a sudden failure.'
The council has since shored up the balconies with scaffolding but says it doesn't know the cause of the failure.
The front panel which fell to earth was made from precast reinforced concrete but Rowe's own studies show that the main body of the balcony was cast in-situ and that the concrete cover for the steel rods was too thin.
The Health and Safety Executive has been called in to investigate the problem.