A building firm and its director have been fined £90,000 each for their part in the collapse of a bookshop and two flats in Tower Bridge Road two years ago.
Rosekey Limited (trading as Atwal Builders) and its director Kashmir Singh Atwal of Bexleyheath were fined after both pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at Croydon Crown Court on Friday 8 December.
Rosekey had been contracted to build a new shop and flats next door and over the previous few days excavations had taken place on the site to form the foundations of the new building.
A trench was dug alongside the bookshop wall at a depth that undermined its foundations. There was no suitable support provided for the excavation or the shop.
During the evening the resident of the top floor flat above the shop saw cracks appearing and widening across the internal walls of his property. When he called the Fire Brigade he was given just a few minutes to grab some belongings before having to evacuate the building.
The owner of the first floor flat arrived back and they both saw their homes collapse in ruins. The residents of the flats were rendered homeless and lost all their belongings, whilst the bookshop lost its stock and was forced to relocate.
Rosekey Limited was fined £90,000 and Mr Atwal as director was also fined £90,000. They were ordered to pay the Health and Safety Executive's costs of £14,444, as well as an interim award of compensation of £3,000 to each of the three displaced residents of the flats.
His Honour Judge Tanzer was particularly critical of Mr Atwal. He described Mr Atwal as "incompetent and ignorant". He added that over previous years at other sites Mr Atwal had "failed to heed warnings from the Health and Safety Executive, and endeavoured to evade the consequences with feeble excuse after excuse".
The judge commended the top floor resident Stephen Cheney who noticed cracks opening up on the walls of his flat and contacted his neighbours to make sure they were safe.
"This was an utterly needless and preventable incident caused by a company with a poor health and safety record," said Alec Ferguson, the HSE's investigating inspector.
"Mr Atwal was in everyday control of the site, but failed to ensure that construction work was carried out safely, due to his neglect. Although it is fortunate that nobody was injured or killed, he has caused untold hardship, misery and distress to those affected by his ill-managed enterprise.
"I would remind all contractors of the dangers associated with excavating near to existing structures, and to take every necessary precaution to provide adequate support to prevent a similar incident."