Tue, 23 Apr 2019
NO action has been taken over the latest, potentially fatal, brick fall incident in Newbury town centre – and apparently no one will be held accountable.
The Newbury Weekly News can reveal that, despite a cascade of masonry narrowly missing shoppers, no formal report has been revealed to the public.
The incident last July was the latest in a series of near misses in the town centre, raising safety questions.
A gust of wind ripped an advertising banner, installed by the Newbury Business Improvement District (BID), from a building in Northbrook Street.
It sent a torrent of bricks on to the street below.
Pedestrians, including a young boy, had been standing there seconds before, but luckily had taken shelter in a doorway during a brief storm.
The BID team was subsequently exonerated from blame.
But when the Newbury Weekly News enquired, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) spokeswoman Emma Deeny said West Berkshire Council was responsible for any investigation into how and why the potential tragedy happened.
The following questions were then put to West Berkshire Council:
* Has there been an official investigation and, if so, what did it conclude?
* Was anyone deemed responsible for what happened and, if so, who?
West Berkshire Council’s Public Protection Initiative (PPI) declined to answer these specific questions and instead gave the following statement in reply: “Newbury BID were responsible for hiring the street banner space. The hirer of the banner space, not Newbury BID, are responsible for providing the banner.”
Meanwhile, the HSE, when pressed further, said in a statement: “The HSE made enquiries with those who erected the banner and they informed us they will no longer use banners across the street and are looking at alternative means of advertising.
“As a result, HSE plans no further action at this time... we will not be commenting further on this.”
Newbury BID chief executive Russell Downing confirmed that the HSE had spoken to him and that his organisation had been cleared of blame.
He added that he had not been told of any further inquiry into the safety of Newbury town centre infrastructure.
The incident was not the first to endanger town centre shoppers.
In 2016, bricks came cascading down from a building occupied by Adecco in Northbrook Street.
Then, in January this year, a Newbury businesswoman told how an old pub sign came crashing down “like a guillotine” and missed one of her clients by inches.
The old Clock Tower Inn, in The Broadway, closed in 2009 but the sign was still there.
Steph Williams, of the VARA Tattoo Studio, said the sign had fallen from its rusting metal frame before hitting the street 15 feet below.
She said: “I was counting my blessings that nobody was underneath it when it came down. It would have sliced straight through someone.”
Many of the buildings in Northbrook Street date back to the 18th century, although some, including Camp Hopson, were built in the 1660s.
The incident with the banner happened at 40 Northbrook Street, the front of which was given a fresh ‘skin’ of new bricks in the 1980s.
The accident exposed the white brickwork of the original workmanship beneath.