‘We still need £250,000 repairs three years after basement dig disaster’

The ‘Evening Standard’ reports;

“A family say they are still waiting for at least £250,000 of repairs to their house three years after it was damaged by a skip falling into the road during a basement dig.

The collapse left a section of Chester Row in Belgravia looking like a bomb site, and became a symbol of the problems associated with basement developments in central London.

The basement is now complete. But the house next door is still cracking and its owners, art dealer Michael Hue-Williams and his wife Ali, say they are trapped in a buck-passing nightmare.

Mrs Hue-Williams, a GP, said work only ended this year: “Cracks started appearing both inside and outside our home as soon as skip fell in, and it kept getting worse. “

The excavation was being carried out by the Big Basement Company, which has since gone bust. “We thought we would be protected by our party wall agreement, and not long ago an award was agreed for the full structural repairs to our house, at least £250,000”, said Mrs Hue-Williams.

But the owner of the property where the work was taking place, offshore company Banyan Estates, hired a solicitor who rejected the party wall award, she added. It has left them in legal limbo.

Bomb site: the collapsed skip outside their damaged Belgravia house in 2010 “The frontage is a mess of cracking stucco and looks like we’ve been neglecting it. There is a big crack in the kitchen, and when the plaster was removed the crack was found to extend into the brickwork. My daughter Lucca, 15, tells me she is embarrassed to have friends in for supper.

“My husband can’t bring clients around for a dinner, which in his business is crucial. We still worry the house will collapse around our ears. And now we’ve received a letter from the Grosvenor Estate warning us to repair the exterior or face legal action.” The skip fell through the street into a disused storage vault in October 2010. It was overloaded with wet soil from the sub-basement that was being dug out under one of the houses.

Residents told how they were woken by a noise like an explosion and saw a “fountain” of water coming from a huge hole in the ground, after water pipes broke.

The basement was designed to house a cinema, swimming pool and gym. The project was managed by property firm Finchatton.

No one from Finchatton visited the site until two days after the skip incident. A spokesman for the company, which denies appointing the basement contractor, said: “One of the contractor’s builders was negligent in that he did not undertake the works in accordance with the method statements provided to him by the structural engineer when underpinning the vaults.” The offshore firm that owns the house, and its solicitors, were not available for comment.

David Littlewood, who lived over the road and took photos of the skip, left to live in the US after another neighbour applied for abasement dig. He said: “I sold my house at a greatly reduced price. No one wants to buy or rent next to a sub-basement excavation.”


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