Highgate lorry crash wrecks historic Caffé Nero canopy
The emergency services’ response to a lorry crash which wrecked an “historic” shop canopy in Highgate Village has been described as “like something out of the IRA bombing era”.
Ten firefighters, two fire engines and a number of police officers were on the scene after the articulated lorry reversed into the wooden awning of Caffé Nero in Highgate High Street at about 1pm on Saturday.
The response was branded “disproportionate” by traders and residents following the crash, which closed the road for several hours.
However, the services defended their reaction, saying that the unstable canopy, which had to be dismantled, posed a risk to lives.
No-one was injured in the collision.
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Archway resident Marjorie Lewis said: “There was chaos for many hours because the Metropolitan Police Service blocked off any entry to Highgate Village.
“I couldn’t believe the emergency services’ presence. I thought there was an IRA bomb, it was a reminder of that era. It really was frightening, until you got the feel for what was going on.”
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Highgate Society vice-president Michael Hammerson added: “I was up there at the time and it looked pretty disproportionate to me.”
A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said: “We work on the information we are given, that there was severe roof damage to a shop-front and possibly lives were at risk. We couldn’t take any risks, so the claim is a bit empty.”
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Service said: “As soon as the full facts of the incident were gleaned the only units that remained were to secure the site and keep the public safe.”
The canopy was a replica of an original Victorian awning at the listed former butcher’s shop, which was destroyed following a similar collision in the 1980s.
It was one of two such awnings in the high street, and among the few still standing in London.
An engineer from Haringey Council took the decision to remove it after it had been secured by the emergency services who feared it could collapse.
Its current absence has been felt strongly by many of the High Street’s traders and shoppers – including Caffe Nero’s manager Dorota Polanska, who has added her voice to hopes for its swift return. She said: “The canopy is part of history, and it’s part of Highgate Village. It feels like there’s no atmosphere here now.”