Dangerous structures and public safety

The Building Control function of local authorities provides a major contribution to the quality of health and safety of the public.  The duties and powers conferred on local authorities under the legislation for dealing with Dangerous Structures must be undertaken in such a manner as to ensure that reasonable standards of safety are achieved.

Legislation

Building Act 1984, Sections 77 and 78.
Section 79, Ruinous or Dilapidated Structures, may be of assistance in certain circumstances, as may also the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, Section 29 Protection of Buildings.

Procedures

Under Section 77, if it appears to a local authority that a building or structure is in such a condition or is used to carry such loads as to be dangerous, the authority may apply to a magistrates court for an order requiring the owner to:
  • Execute such work as may be necessary to obviate the danger; or
  • If he so elects, demolish the building or structure or part; or
  • Restrict its use
In practice it is customary to serve an information notice requesting the owner to remedy the problem within a stated period, before court action is resorted to.  It should also be noted that this section has effect subject to the provision of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 relating to listed buildings, building preservation orders and conservation areas.
Section 78 provides that, if it appears that immediate action should be taken, the local authority "may take such steps as may be necessary for that purpose".  However, Section 78 (2) states that before exercising that power, the local authority shall, if reasonably practicable, give notice of their intention to the owner and occupier.

General Notes

Statutory Notices must always be phrased so as to take account of any historic building's listed status and should not require demolition or removal without the agreement of the relevant Listed Buildings Officer.  See also the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Section 56.2.
When undertaking work to remove a Dangerous Structure there are occasions when the property will be left insecure or exposed to the elements.  Although Section 78(4) implies that "fencing off the building or structure, or arranging for it to be watched" may be carried out, the Local Authority may decide to undertake additional works under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982.

Enforcement

Under Section 77 the Building Act allows a Local Authority to apply for a Court Order: the Local Authority may act in default to execute the work.

Cost Recovery

The Local Authority may recover from the owner the expenses reasonably incurred by them under Section 78 (i.e. removal of immediate danger), but the Act does not allow for the recovery of expenses for work done under Section 77 unless work is done in default.
The Act requires a Court, during proceedings for the recovery of expenses (for work done to remove immediate danger), to question where immediate action was indeed necessary (and, therefore, whether the costs can be recovered).

Notification of Dangerous Structures

Upon identification of an alleged dangerous structure an inspection will be carried out as soon as practicable.
Where the inspection identifies the need for action, the Officer in attendance will decide whether emergency measures are required

Emergency Measures

Under Section 78 of the Building Act 1984, the Surveyor on duty will attempt to contact the owner and occupier to specify the action that needs to be taken to remove the danger.
Where the owner or occupier either cannot be contacted or when contacted cannot take immediate action to remove the danger, the surveyor on duty will arrange for a contractor from the Department's Dangerous Structure List to undertake the necessary works.
In either case the Surveyor on duty will liaise with such other Departments and Authorities (i.e. Highways, Police, Fire etc.,) to co-ordinate the necessary controls to enable the work to be carried out.
Following removal of the dangerous structure the Building Control Services Manager or Principal Building Control Surveyor will prepare a report on the occurrence which will be kept on the Dangerous Structure File and entered onto a database.
Upon receipt of the contractor's invoice the Building Control Services Manager will arrange for payment to be made through the Finance Department.
The Building Control Services Manager will arrange for an invoice to be issued to the owner or occupier to cover the cost of the contractor's works.     

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 01900 702702
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Allerdale Borough Council
Allerdale House, Workington, Cumbria,
CA14 3YJ