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Hampstead scaffolding collapse: NW3 demands answers after six months of silence follows 'terrifying' crash

PUBLISHED: 09:00 05 September 2019

Scaffolding collapsed outside of the Royal Free Hospital earlier this year. Picture: RON VESTER

Scaffolding collapsed outside of the Royal Free Hospital earlier this year. Picture: RON VESTER

Archant

Six months ago, a raft of scaffolding collapsed opposite the Royal Free Hospital in Pond Street narrowly missing - among others - a new mother and her six-week old baby.

Scaffolding returns to South End Green. Picture: Sam VolpeScaffolding returns to South End Green. Picture: Sam Volpe

Since then, there has only been speculation as to why high winds caused a the metal, wood and sheeting to come crashing to the ground.

Miraculously, in March no-one was hurt - but with new scaffolding now up in the same location, people in South End Green are anxious to know what went wrong.

Unfortunately, in the intervening 26 weeks, there has been no official comment - leaving visitors to the Royal Free Hospital and businesses on the bustling corner of Hampstead Heath all none-the-wiser as to the cause of the scaffolding collapse.

The Health and Safety Executive is still investigating.

Emergency services deal with the aftermath of the scaffolding collapse in Pond Street. Picture: Ron VesterEmergency services deal with the aftermath of the scaffolding collapse in Pond Street. Picture: Ron Vester

Camden Council will not comment while the HSE is still investigating.

Scaffolders ALB - which is not responsible for the new scaffolding in place - declined to comment.

Contractors AOD which managed the construction site in March and still do so, assured the Ham&High the new scaffolding could be relied upon and had been erected "in accordance with the proper regulations".

A member of staff at the firm added to this newspaper: "It's still ongoing. We have been helping the HSE with their investigation, and it wouldn't be appropriate to say more until there is an outcome."

But for Candice Hughes, a volunteer at the Royal Free Hospital Charity who crosses the road that was left strewn with debris, said the silence wasn't good enough.

She told this newspaper: "It was a miracle that no-one was hurt.

"I was assuming that because they had put up more scaffolding it was all okay.

"To not know for sure why it happened, or to tell us, it's inexcusable."

The new scaffolding, in place so contractors can complete the external painting work that was cut short when the collapse happened during high winds, first appeared "about a month ago", and since then, Candice said she "had been wondering if we would ever know" what happened in March.

However even the businesses directly underneath the scaffolding are in the dark as to when they'll know for sure what caused the structure to fall.

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Zouhaier Ayodhi was working in Le Pain Quotidien as the scaffolding fell.

He told this newspaper that staff there had not heard anything about the reasons for the collapse.

He said: "It must have fallen at around three, and I just remember quickly being relieved that there were no victims."

Meanwhile Brian Hawkes, who owns the Hampstead Flooring Company, which has a showroom also on the corner of Pond Street, told the Ham&High: "We have been told nothing. We were very lucky when this happened.

"We had a rep here, and fortunately when he was leaving we asked him a question which prevented him from walking around the corner.

"This is one of the busiest corners in London. When we saw what had happened we were sure someone would have been underneath."

Brian remains none-the-wiser as to how it happened though.

"It was very windy, and the problem is you have the sheeting like that just catches," he said.

That was the theory of the scaffolding company themselves in the hours after the structure collapsed.

At the time, ALB told this newspaper: "It could well have just been the wind, because it will have caught the plastic sheeting and that can give it nowhere to go."

To date, this speculation is the extent of public knowledge as to how this happened.

Cllr Maria Higson (Con, Hampstead Town) was on the scene of the collapse shortly afterwards.

She said her "focus had been on helping the people who needed to be rehoused", but said councillors had not been kept informed about the investigation either.

She said: "I think we still need to have answers, especially as more scaffolding has now gone up.

"It's a bit worrying. I think also for me there's a question mark as to the investigation. We were very very lucky that no-one was injured.

"I hope this investigation is being doing at the speed it would have been done if someone had been injured."

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