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Fosters’ tower tragedy: building had been redesigned after previous window fall

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Foster + Partners’ recently completed Corniche tower was redesigned after a window fell from the 26-storey housing block more than a year before a man was killed in a similar incident this week, it has emerged

Developer St James, part of the Berkeley Group, said an investigation into the August 2017 episode led to changes being made during the construction process.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed on 2 October that a man in his 50s – reported to be Kent coach driver Mick Ferris – was killed after an object fell from the luxury block on Albert Embankment. Photographs posted on social media appeared to show a smashed window in its frame next to the man on the floor outside.

A spokesperson for St James said: ‘There was an incident at the Corniche in August 2017, during construction, where a casement window fell from the upper floor. No one was hurt. There was a full investigation instigated by St James, after which the design was amended in accordance with the expert advice received.

‘St James is continuing to assist the Metropolitan Police and the HSE [Health and Safety Executive] with their ongoing enquiries and is carrying out its own investigation into [this week’s] incident. We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr Ferris’s family at this incredibly difficult time.’

According to reports, a window this week fell from the 25th floor – thought to be the penthouse – of the 26-storey building, which houses 168 apartments, a gym, a pool, retail and office space. 

The mixed-use tower was completed by the contracting arm of Berkeley subsidiary St James last year.

A spokesperson from Foster + Partners said earlier this week: ‘Our sympathies and condolences are extended to the family following this tragic incident. We await further information.’

The Health and Safety Executive is investigating the incident along with the police. 

The tower is part of a new wave of development on a tract of land by the River Thames in Vauxhall. 

Foster corniche death credit afshin rattansi and pa

Foster corniche death credit afshin rattansi and pa

Source: Afshin Rattansi/PA

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Readers' comments (1)

  • That's it? I know the AJ doesn't like to concern itself with the use-value of the buildings to which the profession never tires of handing out awards, but in the week the Prime Minister promised to life the cap on council borrowing to build affordable housing, you might have mentioned the affordable housing component of the Corniche building as an indication of what that will be.

    Entered through a separate poor-doors to a building called Bankhouse, the affordable housing component of the Corniche backs onto the railway line that runs directly behind the development, and was developed separately by the One Housing Group housing association. Bankhouse includes all the development’s affordable housing provision, and provides a mix of 1- and 2-bedroom apartments, 36 of which are for sale through shared ownership deals, and 48 are retirement apartments for people over 55 with care needs and available for affordable rent, meaning up to 80 per cent of market rate. These 84 homes making up 33 per cent of the development’s 253 apartments. However, at £565,000 for a 1-bedroom apartment and rents from £208 per week (£900 per month) plus service charges as of November 2017, even this so-called ‘affordable housing’ would be well beyond the financial means of the man who was killed by the Corniche building, Mike Ferris, who despite being a life-long West Ham fan lived outside of London in Hoo, Medway.

    And although the AJ's concern for social issues apparently doesn't extend beyond the profession's increasingly undignified scrabble for briefs, you might also have applied your investigative antennae to who is buying these properties to which so much of London's land is being handed.

    A report into corruption in new London developments published last May by Transparency International revealed that all of the 7 Corniche properties sold at that time had been purchased by overseas investors, and that 3 of the owners were from high corruption risk jurisdictions. Of the 14 developments investigated in the report – including One Tower Bridge, 250 City Road, Southbank Place (the former Shell Centre), Baltimore Wharf, Circus West (phase one of the Battersea Power Station), City North Islington Estate, Manhattan Loft Gardens, Market Towers (One Nine Elms), Merano Residences, South Gardens (Elephant Park), The Stage, Two Fifty One Southwark Bridge Road, Westminster Quarter and The Corniche – 87.7 percent of sales had been made to buyers from abroad, and of these almost half had been bought from persons living in high corruption risk jurisdictions.

    Despite this, Councillor Lib Peck, the Leader of Lambeth Labour Council, which granted planning permission for the development in March 2013, said of the Corniche Building:

    ‘This new development on Albert Embankment is another important stage of the transformation of Vauxhall. Developments like 20-21 Albert Embankment are essential to bringing new jobs, new affordable homes and inward investment into Lambeth which will secure our long-term economic growth.’

    In October 2013, St. James received approval from Lambeth council’s planning committee to turn the 14 shared ownership properties in the neighbouring Merano Residences – like the Corniche also developed by St. James, a subsidiary of the Berkeley Group, and designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners – into 6 properties for market sale, making the development 100 per cent private. In compensation for this loss of affordable housing provision, St. James provided the funding for 6 of the 8 ‘social rented affordable housing units’ that were built on 24-30 St. Oswald’s Place, a site cleared of a ‘short life’ housing co-operative, whose terraced housing was demolished by Lambeth council because it had, in the words of their newsletter, ‘reached the end of its lifespan’. Two years later, in November 2015, this new development was visited by the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who said:

    ‘I was keen to come along to see how they’ve managed to get the best deal for local residents, persuaded developers to build the right sorts of homes and negotiated on behalf of local residents. What you’ve got in Lambeth is a council on the side of its residents and as Mayor I’m going to be on the side of Londoners.’

    The properties in the Merrano Residences, which started at a sale price of £2 million, have all been sold. Like the Corniche, all the 8 properties sold at the time of the Transparency International report had been purchased by oversees investors, 75 per cent of them from high corruption risk jurisdictions. Properties in the Dumont, the third development to make up the Albert Embankment Plaza, also developed by St. James and designed by David Walker Architects, are still available and start at £2.35 million for a 2-bedroom apartment, which makes them as likely to serve as investment opportunities for global capital and dirty money as the rest of the plaza.

    In case you're interested.

    Simon Elmer
    Architects for Social Housing

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