Langney reborn - but why the roof collapsed remains a mystery

Langney Shopping Centre. Day of re-opening following roof collapse in December 2012. June 21st 2013 E26009P
Langney Shopping Centre. Day of re-opening following roof collapse in December 2012. June 21st 2013 E26009P

Langney Shopping Centre owners are remaining tight-lipped on why the roof collapsed back in December and the Health and Safety Executive has said it is not investigating the incident, which could have been fatal if had happened during opening hours.

Back in December,just four days before Christmas, the roof of the shopping centre above the Windmill Cafe caved in causing devastation. Luckily the incident happened in the middle of the night but the council’s building control department said the roof collapse would have caused ‘multiple fatalities’ it had happened during the day.

Langney Shopping Centre was deemed a dangerous building by the building control department the day after the incident and it was closed for six months while repairs took place.

The centre is now starting to reopen – with Tesco, one of Langney’s biggest stores, set to re-open on Friday (July 12).

However, questions on why the roof caved in have still not been answered.

This week it emerged that the owners are under no obligation to provide their structural reports to the authorities, meaning the public may never know why the roof failed.

The Health and Safety Executive has confirmed it is not investigating the incident at Langney Shopping Centre.

A spokesperson from the Health and Safety Executive said there was no involvement because weather had been identified as the cause. The spokesperson said any investigations were down to the local authority because it is a retail premises.

Building control has been involved since the roof caved in.

However, Paul Dunstall, assistant building control manager, said, “We do not know why this roof failed. This is the big question.

“We have asked for the structural report from the owners of the building and they have not given it to us.”

Mr Dunstall said each unit has been checked and approved by building control before opening. He said he was ‘confident’ the building is safe since the roof repairs and strengthening work has taken place.

However, he said there were some concerns for the ‘wider community’.

Mr Dunstall added, “Other buildings in the country that were built around the same time may have a similar problem and that is something we need to be aware of.

“However, with Langney Shopping Centre, the works that have taken place will prevent a further failure.

It is now a safe building and people do not need to worry when they go shopping. Work is still going on but there are no problems I think it looks smashing where the cafe is.”

He explained building control had been as pro-active as possible but was unable to move forward on the cause of the roof collapse without the structural report which was commissioned by the owners.

The agents for the owners London and Associated Management Service (LAMS) have said they are unable to release the report for commercial reasons, including insurance.

There has been much frustration with LAMS over the last six months for their failure to keep the community informed about progress. Traders were also angry when they were charged rent for the period of closure. One business owner said it ‘added insult to injury’. The Herald understands many of the tenants are working together to fight the rent and have not paid any of the outstanding charges.