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.’