CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Builders make ‘lucky escape’ as West Hampstead home collapses

Basement extension was underway at home that had been 'empty for a decade'

12 February, 2018 — By William McLennan

A TEAM of builders made a lucky escape today when a house collapsed in West Hampstead.

Around half a dozen construction workers were on site in Sumatra Road when they heard a “strange sound” and saw the front wall begin to tremble, before tumbling to the ground.

Neighbours said the house had been derelict for around a decade, before refurbishment work re-started within the past month.

One of the builders told the New Journal: “We heard a strange sound and the wall started shaking. Then it collapsed. It was very quick. It’s lucky we were outside.”

The building’s owners were granted permission to extend the basement in 2013 and it is believed the construction workers had been removing rubble left by a firm employed to shore up the building via a process known as “underpinning”.

No one was injured in the collapse. Firefighters evacuated ten people from neighbouring properties.

John Lee, who lives next door, said: “I’m really cheesed off. I just don’t understand how this could happen.

“It’s been empty for ten or 11 years, then the builders came a couple of weeks ago.”

He said he believed the building may have fallen into disrepair while it was vacant, adding: “It’s had ten years of wind and rain with no heating on.”

A council surveyor has assessed the building as unsafe and the road remains closed while they wait for the property owners to secure the structure.

Neighbours stood on the pavement this afternoon observing the collapsed facade, which they described as looking “like an earthquake had hit”.

A first-floor fireplace could be seen still attached to the wall, with a solitary coffee cup sat on the mantelpiece.

One neighbour remarked: “Now that’s open-plan living.”

The New Journal has contacted the building’s owners for comment.

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