Thursday, November 29, 2007

Building collapse leaves broader questions for Council to answer

The evacuation and collapse of a Surry Hills terrace containing a home and restaurant business was the dramatic finale of a potential life threatening disaster on the site adjacent to Clover Moore's much lauded $20 million Surry Hills library.

Whilst Council officials (no doubt advised by lawyers, insurers and the Lord Mayor's media department) are saying it's too early to link the huge construction site next door to the terrace disaster, it defies logic that there is not some linkage that will emerge after proper investigation.

Thankfully no one was injured or killed in the disaster, however an uninsured business has been totally destroyed, jobs and livelihoods lost in the rubble and someone's home is now gone. Not to mention the destruction of part of Crown Street's unique heritage.

How can the Council who impose development conditions on all inner city developments be relied upon to regulate construction when questions are now being asked about the management of their own inner city urban infill developments?

Questions that need to be answered are:
  • Is the $20 million underground and three story high development an over-development of the sensitive inner city site that inevitably would impact upon the fragile heritage fabric of neighbouring properties?
  • Has Clover Moore tried to force too much development into this small site?
  • Is the rush to have this building completed before next September's Council elections putting unreasonable pressure on the contractor and Council management?
  • Is the orgy of construction projects being undertaken by Clover Moore's Council (eg Redfern Oval, Glebe Point Road, Water Police site Pyrmont, Sydney Town Hall upgrade, Walter Reid Reserve, Cook and Phillip Park etc) placing strains upon Council's ability to monitor project performance and contractors?

The only way to answer the questions and restore confidence in Clover Moore's Council administration is an at arm's length independent inquiry that does not just look at why the bricks fell down in Surry Hills but looks more broadly at Council's capacity to undertake dozens of multi million dollar construction projects simultaneously. The State Government should undertake such an inquiry.

PS Good news Clover is typically AWOL when something goes wrong at Council. No where to be seen during the legionella outbreak from Council inspected cooling towers, silent during Council swimming pool closures owing to bacteria infections and now missing in action in Surry Hills building collapse.

It's crunch time at the curry house
All that's left of Nasir Uddin's Indian restaurant this afternoon.Photo: Sahlan Hayes
There are going to be a number of investigations done; at this stage it's not anything to do with the building work
Latest related coverage
Restaurant wreck: I'm not insured
Photos: going, going, gone

Edmund Tadros - November 28, 2007 - 3:32PM
A demolition drama in Surry Hills ended this afternoon after an unstable Indian restaurant was finally bowled over by an excavator before cheering onlookers.
As residents welcomed the departure of a television helicopter, which had been hovering loudly overhead for much of the day, the Indian Chilli restaurant's owner, Nasir Uddin, said he would now consider suing. He believes the Crown Street restaurant's foundations had been unsettled by the building of a community centre next door. Firefighters sprayed water on the debris and dust as police, construction workers and council workers looked on.Even Mr Uddin couldn't resist taking a few photos with his mobile phone.A crowd of people had waited since early morning for the building to be demolished, which came after it began to crack last night.
The reason for the collapse is not known at this stage, but Mr Uddin said he believed the construction site next to his restaurant had destabilised its foundations.
The City of Sydney council is building a Surry Hills community centre on the site; the construction company is ProBuild.
ProBuild's state manager Mark Nathan said that it was too early to determine the cause of the collapse."There are going to be a number of investigations done; at this stage it's not anything to do with the building work," he said.
Angus Kell, state manager of Archicentre, the commercial division of the Royal Australian Institute of Artchitects, said the collapse was the result of the restaurant's foundations being exposed to the elements for the first time in years.
"This is a by-product of in-fill development in some of Sydney's original housing estates ... where the building is exposed to weather where it hasn't been for a number of years, and accordingly the foundations appear to be failing," he said.
Mr Kell was unwilling to assign blame for the collapse of the building."It's very difficult to see [who's responsible] without knowing the finer details ... it may be an act of God, we don't know." As the excavator completed its job and firefighters hosed down the
dust and debris, Mr Uddin watched impassively, smoking a cigarette.Asked what he was thinking as his building collapsed, he said of the builders: "Stupid people, they've got no idea what they're doing."Very bad, very sad." Michael Leyland, director of city projects for the City of Sydney council, said it had been a successful day given the situation the council found itself in this morning with the collapsing building.
He refused to accept responsibility for the collapse of the restaurant and dodged the question of whether the building owner and the Indian restaurant business would be
compensated.He said accommodation would be provided to those requiring it, and that insurance companies would now step in.

SMH pictures here.


Paul R said...

Keep up the good work Shayne.

THe important thing is for the owner of the restaurant to be treated fairly. The challange is before the COncil to prove there is NO link, if they can't they should settle this quickly and let the owner of the restaurant get his life back.

Thank goodness there are people on the Council like yourself who have not been taken captive by the lawyers, risk assessors, middle managers protecting themsevles etc.


Boy on a bike said...

Rudi Guilliani she ain't.