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My children could have died, says mum in school wall row

PUBLISHED: 11:00 26 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:10 14 October 2010

A MUM-of-two says her children could have died when a 12-foot high school wall collapsed into her garden – yet nine months on it is still too unsafe for them to play outside.

A MUM-of-two says her children could have died when a 12-foot high school wall collapsed into her garden - yet nine months on it is still too unsafe for them to play outside.

Natalie O'Keefe, 27, of Montem Street, Finsbury Park, says she is still waiting for a "genuine apology" from Islington Council after the "unsafe" boundary wall that separates her home from Islington Arts and Media School (IAMS) collapsed without warning last November.

Neighbouring Camden Council is currently being prosecuted by the HSE after a two-year-old was crushed to death under a collapsed wall in 2008.

Ms O'Keefe, mother to Charlie, two, and Olivia, 11 months, said: "I felt sick in the pit of my stomach to know they could have been under there. The builders said there were 20 tons of bricks on my lawn. It was the school's responsibility. They've told me more could collapse. I've been left with a flimsy wooden fence that's had two holes kicked in it and a see-through metal fence. I've lost my privacy and security."

IAMS is currently undergoing major refurbishment work as part of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. Ms O'Keefe, who worked with young homeless people before giving birth to Charlie, has been told that the damaged wall will not be rebuilt for two years.

"They can't put the foundations down," said Ms O'Keefe. "By that time I won't have had full use of my garden for three years."

Councillor Richard Watts, Islington Council's executive member for children and young people, said: "This incident clearly shouldn't have happened and officers from the council have been in regular contact with Ms O'Keefe to try and find a satisfactory temporary solution. I agree the temporary fencing used up until this point has not been suitable. Officers have arranged for new fencing to be installed and also for the garden to be cleared. We will ensure the improvements are made as soon as possible so the family can get back to making full use of their garden while the permanent reconstruction of the boundary wall is resolved.


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