Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Tottenham: don't rush into demolishing fire-damaged historic buildings

We have asked the Leader of Haringey Council, Cllr Claire Kober, to defer a decision on the future of the fire-damaged Georgian buildings on Tottenham High Road until a conservation accredited structural engineer has been able to inspect the damage and give an expert opinion.

Structural engineer Brian Morton, founder of The Morton Partnership and hugely experienced in the heritage sector, has given the following initial assessment based on photographic evidence:

"A quick assessment of the information from your website suggests to me that the damage to these buildings is not likely to be any greater than a similar fire that occurred in the Market Place at Stockport a few years ago. There was a proposal to demolish the buildings due to the danger of accessing the building because of Health and Safety Risks. We were able to propose that, using a large cage attached to a crane, it was possible to go inside the building and drop damaged elements into the ground floor, and then clear them out from the shop front.

"The form of damage, looking at the photograph of the Grade II Listed Building 662 High Road, suggests that the front elevation externally is unlikely to be seriously damaged because there is no great heat generated on this open facade and similarly, I suspect, that the bressumer would only have been affected by burning of the surface face of the timber.

"Internally, I have no information but it is likely the damage is greater to the brickwork inside because of the likely intensity of the fire bought about by the floors, partitions, and fixtures and fittings.

"Before demolishing a Listed Building, the very least that should be done is an inspection by an Engineer, via a cherry picker or crane, and advise".

Mr Morton has offered to visit the site this week. We have passed that offer on to LB Haringey and await a response. Obviously there are several competing urgent priorities in the immediate aftermath of a riot, but it is important that demolition is not undertaken precipitately. The rioters should not be allowed to add Tottenham's heritage to the long list of other losses.

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