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Property developer faces £100k fine for Manchester gas explosion

03 December 2012

A Trafford-based property developer has been handed a £100,000 fine after a gas explosion destroyed dozens of homes in south Manchester. PJ Livesey Group was working on the Didsbury Gate scheme to convert the former Withington Hospital building into houses and apartments when a gas explosion caused widespread damage and injured a worker.

The worker cut through a six-inch gas pipe in an underground tunnel in December 2009 and suffered burns to his hands and face when gas inside the pipe ignited.

About an hour later, gas which had continued to leak from the damaged pipe ignited again, causing an explosion which destroyed a large part of the site.

Hundreds of homes, including 21 apartments at the development which were already occupied, businesses, three schools, a hospital, two health units and a police station were all evacuated. Debris from the site landed on a nearby primary school, damaging buildings, a play area and its power supply.

PJ Livesey, a restoration specialist which recently secured a joint contract worth £67.8m to work on the Lancaster Moor Hospital redevelopment, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The company pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 after failing to ensure people's safety. In addition to the fine, it was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £21,404.

The HSE said PJ Livesey did not arrange for a detailed survey to be carried out to find out where the pipe ran, and wrongly informed workers on the site that the gas pipes had been decommissioned.

In fact, only the hospital building had its supply isolated. Investigators at the Health and Safety Executive found the company had possession of National Grid maps confirming there was a live gas pipe on the site.

A company statement said: "PJ Livesey is a responsible developer and employer and the safety of our employees, contractors and members of the public is paramount.We have co-operated fully with authorities as part of their investigations and acknowledge and accept the fine handed down by the court."

The entire Grade 2 listed chapel and tower was rebuilt and the development is now complete and sold.

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