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Farnborough town centre - unsecured demolition site

Keith Parkins | 28.04.2008 15:25 | Repression | Social Struggles

Sooner or later someone is going to be killed or seriously injured in Farnborough during the town centre redevelopment. Officials at the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor conveniently choose to look the other way and turn a blind eye.

unsecured demolition site
unsecured demolition site

'FACK grew out of the campaigning around Simon Jones' death which had a magnificent effect, especially the direct action. It woke people up to the fact that we could take on the companies that kill people and do something about it. There's over 20 families of people killed at work involved with FACK, campaigning against unfettered and unregulated greed of business. People build struggles on past struggles, it's important to learn lessons from past campaigns - it's how we get stronger.' -- Hilda Palmer of Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK)

'We are painfully aware that in 21st century Britain the fight for the most basic of workers' rights – the right not to be killed or injured at work – is still being fought. Without direct action James Martell and Euromin would never have faced prosecution in the High Court for Simon's death. As long as this government and its agencies refuse to take action against companies that profit from casualisation at the expense of their workers' lives we will continue, where necessary, to break the law so that justice will prevail.' -- Simon Jones Memorial Campaign

'The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is worse than ever. Between 2006 and 2007, UK deaths at work went up from 217 to 241, an increase of 11%. In the same period HSE inspections of workplaces decreased by 24%, to the point where a workplace could expect the man from the HSE to call once every 14.5 years. Since 2002, the HSE has lost over 1,000 posts as a result of cuts. Go get them cowboys!' -- SchNEWS

Has nothing been learned from the deaths and serious injuries that are a regular occurrence on building sites and in the workplace in general?

The answer would appear to be yes, nothing has been learnt!

Ten years ago, 24 April 1998, Simon Jones was killed at a Shoreham dock on his first day at work unloading a ship. His death sparked a campaign of direct action against the corporate killers. Ten years on and despite lip service from neo-Labour, businesses still get away with the murder of employees and families are forced to fight for justice. Families against Corporate Killing (FACK) were formed as an umbrella group to help people who lose loved ones were lost to workplace accidents.

A Job Seeker was forced by CDG (Careers Development Group) to go on a job placement. He was told it was office work. It was a builders merchants and he found himself working in the yard with no training, no protective clothing.

CDG, alongside a4e, Working Links, run scam training courses for DWP as part of New Deal, 'help' unemployed back into work.

Farnborough town centre is currently one large demolition site. It has been like this since last summer.

Thursday afternoon, the flimsy fence to the demolition site was left open. Anyone, including a small child, could have walked through, unhindered, unchallenged onto the site.

Jenkins, an official in the Environmental Health Department of the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, was notified by e-mail. He had already been notified of other incidents that were endangering the public, including failure to take proper precautions when disposing of asbestos.

Though advised, instead of taking action, or passing on to those who can, it would appear that Jenkins would prefer to choose to turn a blind eye, play pathetic childish demarcation games with the Health and Safety Executive in Basingstoke.

Friday evening, the flimsy fence had once again been left open and unsecured. Either it had been left open since Thursday, or once again left open that day. Neither of which is good news and shows a cavalier if not criminal attitude to health and safety.

It was an open invitation to the kids that hang about the town centre at night to walk onto the site.

Within a few feet of the opening in the flimsy fence, holes that anyone could fall down, should they have been tempted to wander onto the site. The rest of the site was no less safe.

Looking into the site, there was no one around to alert to the dangers.

Is there no site security whose job it is to regularly check that everything is ok, that the site is locked down, safe and secure? Apparently not, or if there is, they are clearly not doing their job properly.

It begs the question: Why is no monitoring taking place of the developer, a known cowboy developer, that puts corporate profit before health and safety?

KPI (a Kuwaiti-financed front-company for St Modwen) bought Farnborough town centre ten years ago. They have since trashed the town centre. In the process, putting at risk members of the public.

During the demolition of the town centre, three people came close to being killed.

The buildings that were demolished, were contaminated with asbestos. I leant Friday night, from an ex-tenant of KPI, that the flats above the shops were also contaminated with asbestos and that KPI/St Modwen was aware of this. The ex-tenant said no special precautions were taken to remove the asbestos before demolition began.

For weeks, contractors have been blasting at the overhead canopies in Queensmead (a pedestrian street running through what is left of the town centre). No screening is in place to protect the public walking through Queensmead. I and others have been blasted as we walk through Queensmead and have had to take shelter in doorways until the workers (who seem unable to speak or understand a word of English) temporarily run out of pressure.

When this was drawn to the attention of Jenkins, he blatantly lied and claimed there had been no complaints. When I corrected his lie, he changed his story, and simply came out with another lie, that people were happy with the situation. Again not true.

During the demolition of the town centre, three people that I am aware of were almost killed.

During the demolition of the last remaining office block, the same mistakes were repeated and corners cut. I watched heavy equipment smashing into the office block, endangering anyone walking along Victoria Road, the public highway that ran alongside the building.

The contractors themselves recognised there was a danger, as they were shouting and swearing at passers by and ordering them to cross to the other side of the road. Passers by that were exercising their legitimate right to walk along a public highway.

If the work was endangering members of the public, which it clearly was, then it should not have been taking place.

The developer has a long and sorry record of endangering the public.

When the derelict Post Office site was left for many years, the rickety corrugated fence enclosing the site used to take off in strong winds. One night, panels broke away and smashed into the plate glass windows of Boot's The Optician. Fortunately no one was passing by at the time.

When building work finally took place on the old Post Office site, a block the size of a football fell off the counterweights of the tower crane, only just missing a person who was standing below.

When the south side to The Mead was demolished, there was dust and debris everywhere. Several people were hit on the head by flying debris. The staff in the Dry Cleaners were forced to wear dust masks. One member of staff never worked again due to an asthmas attack triggered by the dust.

Like many other local businesses, the Dry Cleaner has seen his business destroyed and been driven out of his premises by the developer.

And what do the officials at the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor do whilst all the is going on? Turn a blind eye.

If the responsibility is that of HSE, then I would have expected Jenkins to contact the appropriate person at the HSE, pass on all my information. And then report back to me and advise what action he had taken. Not play pass the buck, sit on his hands and do nothing.

It is sheer good luck that no one has been killed or seriously injured. One day Lady Luck will be looking the other way.

St Modwen is currently trying to trash Walthamstow and Queen's Market at Upton Park in London.

Corporate Killing is now at long last, a criminal offence. Should officials like Jenkins not be put in the dock as accessories?

Nicholas - Jenkins - 01252 398135

And what has this all been for in Farnborough? A large superstore that will face out of the town. A large superstore that will destroy social housing for its car park. A large superstore within 100 yards of an existing large superstore. A large superstore that will help kill off the remaining businesses in town. In the process (it is a decade since the developer bought the town centre), many small businesses have been destroyed, people's livelihoods destroyed, people's lives have been put at risk, three people almost lost their lives.

Sadly none of this ever gets reported in the local Farnborough News, a news rag that is little more the PR comic of the local council and Big Business, where the hacks cannot tell the difference between a news story and a press release and simply regurgitate whatever rubbish they are told, unless members of the public tell them something and then they get it wrong. The latest rubbish to be reported last week on the front page of the Farnborough News, was that local people welcome what has happened to Farnborough town centre! For the last five years, the Farnborough News has been reporting that Farnborough is about to get an exciting new town centre. And yes, that was reported yet again last week!

'While the long-awaited redevelopments of Farnborough and Aldershot town centres got underway, not all proposals to change Rushmoor’s landscape have been welcomed by the community this year.'

'Farnborough’s town centre also began to take shape as the bulldozers moved in to begin a complete overhaul of the area.'

Small wonder the paper is seen as little more than a comic.

Keith Parkins


Display the following 3 comments

  1. still unsecured — Keith
  2. HSE — BEn
  3. Health and Safety Executive — Keith