Housing Company Warns Families not to use Balconies in New-build Flats after one Collapses

A housing company has warned families not to use the balconies in their new-build £300,000 flats after one collapsed on to the street below.

More than 400 affordable homes in Barking, East London, are now considered “unsafe” after a balcony collapsed on Saturday night.

Residents of the Gascoigne East estate have been told not to use their balconies until further notice by Barking and Dagenham Council’s affordable housing company BD Reside.

The company said in a letter dated November 13 that it recognises Saturday’s incident is “very worrying” and has instructed a repairs contractor to “reduce the risk”.

Matt Lismore, a resident of the estate, shared a photo of the collapse on Twitter. He said: “Yesterday evening a balcony collapsed on to the street in my apartment building, just four years after construction. All 414 properties are now considered ‘unsafe’ and we will need to erect scaffolding across the entire estate to keep ourselves and the public safe.

Residents have now been sent a letter warning them not to use their balconies.

The letter, sent by Steve Thorn from BD Reside, reads:

You will no doubt be aware of the collapse of the façade on a balcony in Net Street on Saturday.

Reside staff were on site on Sunday together with EVO, our repairs contractor, to assess the site and agree actions. Following that attendance, I was on site today with Bouygues and L&Q and as a result of our findings, we have instructed EVO to arrange works to reduce the risk to residents until we have clear assurance that all balconies on the estate are safe.

We are now asking residents not to use their balconies until further notice.We recognise that the incident on Saturday is very worrying, and residents will want to understand what happens next so that we can ensure that all the balconies are safe. We will provide updates on next steps as soon as we are able.

We remain in discussions with the developer to impress on them the need to take urgent action on the concerns raised and we will continue to work with Bouygues and L&Q to address any ongoing concerns.

The Gascoigne East development was built by Paris-based engineering company Bouygues.

Mr Lismore, a Labour activist and investment banker, said the estate had been plagued with problems for years. He shared an email he sent to Darren Rodwell, leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, last May to “express serious concern about the management and build quality of the development”.

In the email, Mr Lismore listed a number of issues, including “building safety”, “build quality”, “defective equipment/infrastructure”, “poor building management”, and “very slow repairs”.

He specifically noted that “several balconies have fallen off on to the property below” and “no attempt has been made to survey whether other balconies are at risk of falling”.

Mr Lismore said he met with the head of MyPlace, the council’s managing agent, in August and was told “there were no issues with the balconies and that I was categorically wrong to assert there was”.

“Surely the managing agent would have contacted the developer once they became aware of the defective risk to life balconies?” he asked on Twitter.

Mr Lismore alleged a series of issues with the build quality of the balconies, including the use of “cheap and ineffective metals”, “a wood type that rots when exposed to moisture”, and a “drainage system that wasn’t fit for purpose”.