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FALLING MASONRY DEATH PROMPTS COUNCIL TO CALL FOR INCREASED ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY IN BUILDING CONTRACTS

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Sub-standard workmanship was blamed by a fatal accident investigation carried out after a lump of stone fell from t...
Sub-standard workmanship was blamed by a fatal accident investigation carried out after a lump of stone fell from the roof of Ryan's Bar in Edinburgh on 29 June 2000, killing waitress Christine Foster and injuring eight others.

The City of Edinburgh Council responds as follows to the sheriff's findings in the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the circumstances of the death of Christine Foster.

Council leader Donald Anderson said: 'Everyone in the council and indeed the city has been deeply moved by this very sad and unnecessary tragedy and our deepest thoughts and sympathies are with Christine's family and friends. The council welcomes the sheriff's determination and will act on his findings accordingly.

'It is clear from his findings that this tragic incident might have been avoided were it not for the poor quality of building work.

'What we are extremely concerned about is the fact that it isn't clear who is responsible for the building work which led to this incident occurring. There appears to be no accountability or transparency in the way in which these building contracts are carried out.

'A closer look at the legislation governing the building industry is required, and I understand that the UK government is looking into this through the Rethinking Construction agenda. We plan to contribute further to this debate and will be making representations for new legislation to be introduced.

'In respect to the council's position, I would draw attention to the sheriff's findings that:

'There is indeed no evidence to suggest that the City of Edinburgh council failed in any duty of inspection, for there was no evidence that any such duty existed. There was no evidence to suggest the existence of any reasonable precautions which the council could have taken which might have prevented the death, nor any defect in any of their systems of work.'

'In fact, Edinburgh has a very stringent regime for enforcing building repairs and serves around 10,000 statutory notices that secures about£6m worth of building improvements annually. What we now need to do is consider the sheriff's recommendations more fully and take relevant action as speedily as we can.

'We have already begun work on carrying out an audit of Edinburgh's buildings and I've instructed council officials to report back to the next full meeting of the council on how this should be taken forward.

'The proposal to create additional powers of inspection for local authorities merits greater consideration as it would certainly allow us to take a more active role in the maintenance of buildings.

'What is clear, however, is that there is no perfect inspection system that could pick up every single defect in building work or deterioration in older buildings. Indeed, the sheriff did find that a 'visual inspection from pavement level, whether such an inspection had been made on behalf of the council or anyone else, might not have revealed the problem'.

'However, this should not prevent any of us - the council, property-owners, the government - from looking at what more could be done to try to avoid anything like this occurring again.

'The sheriff acknowledged the high level of skill and determination of the council staff involved in the inquiry and the extent of resources that the council commits to the enforcement of current legislation and toward its emergency response.

'I would like to urge all property owners to also play their part, particularly where their property faces onto a main street or busy thoroughfare, including properties that have been recently renovated. The latest three cases of masonry falls in Edinburgh were found to come from buildings that had been recently refurbished.'

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