DEMOLITION work has started on a block of flats fatally undermined in recent flooding ...
DEMOLITION work has started on a block of flats fatally undermined in recent flooding ... but they could have been saved if property prices had not plummeted, it has emerged.
Demolition crews working on behalf of Dunelm Homes yesterday began tearing down the eight Spencer Court flats that were undermined by floodwaters following a catastrophic culvert collapse in Newburn, Newcastle, on September 25.
But company boss Brian Manning said that had the property market not dipped by 20% to 30% in the time since the development was built, it may have been worth trying to shore up and repair rather than raze the building.
“I think the cost of rebuilding, given the amount of land washed out, would outweigh the value of the flats now,” said Mr Manning, Dunelm Homes’ executive director.
“But when they were built in 2005 and 2006 it was the peak of the property market and they sold for £140,000 to £150,000. Maybe if they still had their original value it could have been looked at to save them, though even then, it would involve a lot more work.”
According to the Land Registry, prices for a two-bedroom flat in Spencer Court peaked at £167,500 in December 2006 and March 2007. But by 2011 the values had plummeted, with a property only two doors down selling for just £84,000 ... a 49.85% reduction.
Residents have been evacuated from all the blocks on Spencer Court after four floods between May and September, but no timescale has been offered for when they may return.
Mark Davison, managing director of Durham-based MGL Demolition, said the demolition of numbers 14 to 21 Spencer Court should hopefully take around 10 days, during which his team would look to try to save some of the larger items in the flats, such as wardrobes and chests of drawers, which homeowners had no chance of removing in the short time they were allowed back into their homes a fortnight ago.
But what happens beyond that depends on what engineers find when they go 12 metres (40ft) underground and examine the 3m (9ft) wide culvert that runs under the street.
Mr Manning said the hope was that the waterway would require little repair, and the river would soon be flowing again, but until then it would not be possible to say when neighbours may be able to return home.
“What we need to find out is whether it is viable to pass water through the culvert as, right now with the pumps in place and the possibility of more rain, the estate could be flooded again,” he said.
“We’re planning to get in there next week, even before the demolition is complete.”
His words have offered hope for residents such as Debbie Bello, who was forced from her ground-floor home in the building next door to the condemned block after flooding in August.
She said that while the demolition marked a dark day for her neighbours it could hopefully be the first step on a long road to allowing many families to return to their homes.
“For us and others like us this is probably a positive step,” said Mrs Bello, who currently lives in a static caravan at Sandy Bay Holiday Park, near Ashington, with husband Mario.
“If the block comes down and the culvert is repaired, then we’re told the other blocks are structurally sound and we might be able to go home.”