Concerns after 'DIY' danger sheds take flight during storms in South Tyneside

Concerns have been raised about ‘DIY’ sheds and outbuildings becoming a safety hazard during severe storm events.

Like much of the region, South Tyneside is still recovering from the impact of Storm Arwen and other extreme weather events which saw trees uprooted and buildings damaged.

With the Covid-19 pandemic prompting people to enjoy their gardens and outdoor spaces, an increase in the construction of sheds and outbuildings could be creating potential dangers to the public, according to a councillor.

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“I would endorse all the words of praise, fully deserved, that are heaped upon our services and at times like that [storms], people show the best of themselves,” said councillor Doreen Purvis, Whiteleas ward representative.

A picture showing storm aftermath in South Tyneside.

“But to me it brought home a number of issues which we have with tenants erecting sheds and outbuildings in their gardens, often without any kind of permission and often DIY jobs.

“Of course, we have kind of paid the consequences of that when sheds were last seen disappearing down John Reid Road.

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“It can be quite dangerous and I would be looking to talk to South Tyneside Homes and see whether this is one of the reasons why we should keep a closer eye on what people are doing to make sure there are no consequences attached.”

Cllr Purvis was speaking at a recent meeting of the council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee (March 18) at South Shields Town Hall.

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The comments followed a presentation from the council’s building control department on “dangerous structures and the impact of the recent series of storms”.

From November 26 to December 25, 2021, which saw Storm Arwen and Storm Barra hit the region, a total of 88 incidents were reported.

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These ranged from slipped and loose roof tiles, to complete roofs being blown off and the collapse of several gables to properties – however no serious injuries were reported.

From the end of January 2022 until the end of February 2022, storms Corrie, Dudley, Eunice, and Franklin hit the borough and a further 51 reports of dangerous structures were reported.

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According to a report prepared for councillors, no serious injuries were reported during these storms.

Mark Taylor, senior building control surveyor, told councillors there had been a rise of small detached structures being built in the borough.

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But under current rules, he explained, many structures were “exempt” from building control checks.

The building control chief went on to say: “Small detached structures, sheds in particular, since Covid we’re seeing far more getting built and everybody is building in the garden outdoors.

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“But in terms of building regulations, small detached structures in general are exempt so there’s no real control about how they’re constructed and where they’re positioned.

“In terms of building regulations, there aren’t any standards that are actually applicable to a lot of the sheds and structures out there.

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“But I certainly understand [the concerns], when we were dealing with the dangerous structures on the days of the storms, we saw sheds literally pass by us and being destroyed.

“Unless they’re a particular size and in relation to the position on the boundary, in most cases they are actually exempt from building regulations and there aren’t any construction standards that they need to follow unfortunately.”

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According to a report prepared for councillors, the construction industry and insurance companies have “struggled” to deal with the volume of claims and repairs linked to storms.

The report adds that “repair and reinstatement work is likely to continue for some time to come.”