Property owners should be wary of stone facades above pedestrian routes

Bristol property owners breathed a collective sigh of relief as the city escaped the full wrath of the storm which devastated Southern areas of the UK this week.

But the damaging winds which battered many regions of Southern Britain have highlighted once again the dangers posed by falling masonry and crumbling stonework.

Colliers International Buildings Consultant Nick Williams said Bristol’s historic city centre streetscapes were particularly prone to the effects of weathering – with subsequent risks to passersby.

He said: “Bristol is full of some beautiful Georgian stone architecture, especially in the popular centres such as Clifton etc. But these Grade I and II listed facades pose hidden dangers if property owners do not implement regular maintenance programmes.”

Last year in the city, an ornamental façade fell from a building through a glass canopy, landing on a heavily pedestrianised route in the centre of the city.

“Fortunately nobody was injured, however there have been instances where stonework has fallen onto busy pedestrian routes and even eating establishments in the city of London.”

Following last year’s scare, Bristol City Council wrote to occupiers requesting details of what measures have been put in place to prevent similar incidents from occurring, however such an incident should not be used as a trigger to ensure that adequate maintenance programmes are in place.

Nick Williams urged landlords and tenants to act now to ensure their buildings are properly inspected and any remedial works undertaken to protect the public from future incidents.

“Last week’s weather forecasts had many people worried about damage to their property – but landlords and tenants alike need to be aware of the legal obligations imposed on them under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

“Those who have a duty to maintain buildings need to show that they have, in so far as is reasonably practical, put in place measures to regularly inspect their façades and undertake such repairs as are necessary to ensure the safety of the public.

“It is vital landlords and tenants are aware of their responsibilities and that they continuously monitor their buildings for wear and tear.

“The other aspect to bear in mind is that we are not just talking about period buildings. The regulations equally apply to modern buildings as much as ornate facades around some of Bristol’s best-loved shopping streets.”

Nick concluded: “Even if Bristol didn’t see the level of damage we were expecting we are about to face another harsh and damaging winter and taking time out to instigate proper building checks now could save owners time and money in future – not to mention potentially save somebody’s life.”