Neighbours' 'nightmare' at being left homeless after house collapses in Finchley

Builders had been digging out a basement at the property before it caved in

Builders had been digging out a basement at the property before it caved in

First published in News Times Series: Photograph of the Author by

Neighbours of a house that partially collapsed over the weekend have been left homeless while the damaged property is demolished.

People living in flats on either side of the converted Victorian house, in Stanhope Avenue, Finchley, have not been allowed back in since the foundations first gave way on Saturday afternoon.

Work had been carried out at the property before it caved in, leaving a crack down the centre of the semi-detached house.

Anja Blank, who has lived in a flat next door for the past ten years, has been left with no change of clothes and has had to rehome her cats at a friends’ house while the work takes place.

The 39-year-old said: “It is a nightmare. No-one has taken responsibility for housing us while this goes on so we’re having to find somewhere to stay ourselves – it’s terrible.”

Workmen have begun the painstaking process of demolishing the house brick by brick and damage assessments on neighbouring homes cannot be carried out until that is complete.

Anja says she does not know when she will be allowed back into her home and believes Barnet Council could have done more to help her when the authority was first made aware of the problem.

Emergency services and the council’s building control evacuated the house after it started to collapse on Saturday before it sank further in the early hours of Sunday.

Anja said: “I returned home Saturday night and there was a fence up and you could see the building had moved but there were no signs saying not to go in or anything.

“I went and rescued my cats and went and stayed at a friend’s house because I guessed it was not safe.

“Part of me is very angry that this was allowed to happen in the first place and the fact we’ve been made homeless has just left me feeling scared.

“My cats can’t stay at my friend's house for long and I’m worried about what will happen to my home. All I have at the moment is my purse.”

Barnet Council says it will be carrying out an investigation into why the building collapsed once the demolition is complete.

In a statement, a spokesman said: “The council’s Building Control Team was notified by the London Fire Brigade at 15:40 on Saturday afternoon and was on site by 15:55.

“On arrival, the building appeared to have slipped side-ways and part of the rear corner had moved 200-300cms.

“The property was deemed unsafe so those residents present, including neighbours on both sides of the damaged property, were ordered to evacuate under building control legislation.

"The building firm responsible for the works had already constructed supports to try and contain the slippage. The council also erected fences in front of the damaged property.

“Two neighbours returned late on Saturday evening and sensibly gathered belongings and found alternative accommodation overnight.

“It was not until early Sunday morning the outer wall slipped further, after all residents were away from the property.”

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