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4 December 2014

Unexplained structural damage has forced businesses to remain closed during the lucrative build up to Christmas and left part of a Victorian terrace facing the ‘wrecking ball’.

The owner of new restaurant Raw Duck first discovered the sudden and serious damage to the terrace in Amhurst Road, Hackney Central, after noticing a wall in her basement had collapsed.

An emergency evacuation of eight residents, two restaurants and a freestanding shellfish retailer followed.

5 Amhurst Road, deemed unsafe, is set to be hand demolished.

The affected businesses have been left with few answers about how the Hackney Central site in which they were based ended up becoming dangerously structurally unsound.

Speculation as to the cause of the structural damage has been rife, with many pointing to a large trench adjacent to the row of affected buildings – the site is set to become a Travelodge – as a possible cause.

However, the reasons why the terrace became structurally unsound are yet to be determined as Hackney Council is carrying out an investigation.

Seafood trader left high and dry

Martyn Waller, owner of family-run shellfish business C and C Stores, which has been forced to close, said: “We’ve lost a lot of revenue, we are normally very busy this time of year, with Christmas stuff especially – I bought one thousand pounds worth of stock and I can’t sell a thing.

“There will be a claim at the end of the day. Whoever holds their hands up to whoever is responsible for the subsidence will face claims from every shopkeeper and business affected.”

C and C Stores was established by Mr Waller’s father-in-law shortly after the Second World War and has been providing fresh fish and fruit to commuters outside Hackney Central’s old ticket office for over 70 years.

Mr Waller said: “The first thing I’d look at is the site at the far end. Things were fine until they dug that big hole.

“I won’t let it ruin Christmas though – we’ll just have sausages instead of turkey,”

Since the damage he has been pitching a makeshift stall each Saturday under the bridge at Hackney Central Station in an attempt to gain some revenue and keep his regular customers happy.

‘Extremely disappointed’

Engineers have carried out an inspection of the old Hackney Central Station ticket office as it was initially feared the structural issues could be more widespread.

The old building is set to accommodate a new live music venue called Oslo, which was due to open on 6 December. The opening has been postponed indefinitely.

Oslo’s deputy general manager Alec Wilson said he was ‘extremely disappointed’.

He added: “Having been regular patrons of Raw Duck and Cirrik, our thoughts go to those potentially losing their businesses and homes on Amhurst Road.

“When we are able to access the venue to complete the build, we look forward to being an exciting addition to the area.”

Structural incident ‘really rare’

Simon Pitchers, a chartered engineer from the Institute of Structural Engineers, said he could not comment on the damage specific to Amhurst Road, but he added: “Sudden structural damage is really rare.

“Normally sudden damage is the result of some external factor. Buildings don’t usually suddenly give up.

“It is the case that if you have a building and you dig next to it below the level of the foundations, that can destabilise the foundations.”

Contractors for Hackney Council will try to protect the historic façade of 5 Amhurst Road, and an investigation is ongoing to determine whether any other buildings in the terrace will require demolition.

Hackney Central Overground remains open but can currently only be accessed via the main car park.

There is no step-free access, but a ramp was due to be installed early this month.

A spokesperson for the developer in charge of the Travelodge building site, said: “Presently, we are working with our contractors and the relevant authorities to investigate the likely cause of the structural issues to the properties on Amhurst Road.

“Until that investigation is concluded we are unable to comment further.”

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