I was nearly killed by falling concrete block

A GRANDMOTHER has slammed the building firm working on her Highgate estate after she was almost flattened by a falling lump of concrete

Tan Parsons

A GRANDMOTHER has slammed the building firm working on her Highgate estate after she was almost flattened by a falling lump of concrete.

Lydia Gold, 63, from Sandstone Place on the Whittington estate, had stepped out onto her balcony to sweep up mess left by contractor Durkan when a stray concrete cone flew inches past her head.

Still recovering from the shock, Ms Gold is now calling for better safety measures from the firm.

"I heard this horrendous drilling noise and was just thinking, 'I wish they'd stop'," she said.

"I stuck my head out and I saw something whizz by my head. It smashed into my balcony and it was like a bomb had gone off.

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"It was a concrete cone about eight or nine inches long and it missed me by inches. I was absolutely hysterical and started screaming.

"My first thought was that it could have killed me or broken my arm in a hundred places. If it had hit my Labrador, it would have killed her outright. I've got four grandchildren and I wouldn't let them anywhere near the balcony. But if one managed to get out there it could be terrible.

"I'm absolutely furious with Durkan. Why wasn't there a contractor on the balcony to make sure people didn't step out while they were drilling? And why wasn't it shored up properly to stop lumps of concrete smashing down?"

The incident on January 18 caused Ms Gold to fall back into her flat and hurt her neck on a sofa. An examination at the Whittington Hospital, on Highgate Hill, confirmed she had exacerbated an existing injury.

The £4million building project began on October 2005 when the company Makers was drafted in to repave walkways and improve drainage to stop flooding in the underground car parks.

The project is over budget and has run way past the original deadline of April 2007. Some work has had to be redone up to six times because of problems between Camden Council and the builders.

Makers was sacked last year. But residents are still concerned about the safety practices of new contractor Durkan.

Estate resident Douglas Burgess said: "Durkan is an improvement on Makers but I would say the safety record could certainly be improved. They leave a lot of mess out and don't seem to be very good at sweeping up - especially before the weekends. There's scaffolding up outside my place that was meant to come down before Christmas but it's still there now."

A spokesman for Durkan said: "The incident was reported to Durkan Ltd's safety inspectors who have visited the site and are carrying out a formal investigation."

A Camden Council spokesman said: "We have reminded Durkan Ltd of its health and safety responsibilities pending its own investigation.

"We have rigorous checks in place on all of the works we carry out in the borough, including the work done by our contractors.

"Our inspectors, known as clerks of works, visit all of the sites we have control over to monitor the quality and safety of work being carried out.

"Where these inspectors find problems, they have the authority to issue instructions on site and even stop works immediately if they find serious safety problems."