Roads around Epsom Downs Racecourse were closed again recently on Thursday 5 January, after another small section of the commercial property grandstand roof broke off and fell to the ground.
The roof was first damaged on the Duchess’s Stand by high winds on Tuesday (3 January) morning and, in spite of efforts from contractors to secure the building, more gusty weather has since caused further damage.
A member of racecourse staff said the small piece had tumbled from the roof onto the paved area directly in front of the stand however nobody was injured.
A member of staff from the commercial offices said: “We are still in the offices. The problem is the winds were gusting a lot stronger than they forecast overnight. This is the first piece of the roof that has fallen to the ground; it is only a small piece but for safety reasons the road was closed.”
Police were called at around 2pm and roads around the racecourse were closed. Metro bus also announced on online social networking site Twitter that services passing the racecourse were disrupted on Thursday afternoon.
A spokesman for Metro bus tweeted: “Routes 460 and 480 on diversion between Tattenham Corner station and Epsom High Street, due to the road closure of Epsom Racecourse where more of the roof has detached itself from Epsom grandstand.”
A police spokesman stated: “Surrey Police was alerted at 2pm that the roof on a stand at Epsom Downs Racecourse was damaged due to severe winds and parts of the roof had become detached.”
Epsom and Ewell Council, is responsible for the commercial property building under the dangerous structures section of the Building Act 1984, and said that an independent surveyor has been hired to inspect the commercial property building and make sure that repair work is of an acceptable standard.
Meanwhile a local weather expert has said that Tuesday’s winds were not exceptional and believes the roof at Epsom Downs Racecourse ought to have been built to tolerate much higher speeds, given its exposed location.
The Met Office website showed winds gusting at 44mph in Surrey, while its closest observation point at Kenley clocked gusts at 56mph.
However local weather expert and founder of magazine, Weather Eye, Ian Currie said: “I think the gusts were about 60mph, perhaps up to 70mph, so pretty strong. At this time of year we have had many examples of very strong winds.”
He further added: “In fact on the third of January 1976 there was a very big storm with very strong winds up to similar speeds. There was another storm in 1993 and of course there was also the great storm in 1990 where winds were over 80mph. It’s to do with the fact that it’s been very cold over Greenland and Iceland over the last month. This develops areas of low pressure which move in from the Atlantic and they are giving us the very unsettled but mild weather that we are having at the moment. Tuesday’s winds would perhaps come along every 5 to 10 years.”
Mr Currie added: “The storm yesterday was not the most ferocious that we have had at this time of year and the building itself is in a very exposed area so the designers should really have taken that in hand when building it to specification to withstand winds of up to 100mph, I would have thought.”
Mr Goodwin of Shawley Crescent in Epsom Downs added: “Whatever the Met Office are saying I can categorically assure you that wind speeds on and around the Downs were way above 44mph from the early hours this morning.
There’s a major difference with exposed high ground – certainly from our home just down the road from the racecourse I was concerned that there might be trees down or roof tiles lost, simply judging by the wind speeds from at least 4am this morning. Even down at lower ground in Ewell the gusts were such that it was difficult to walk along the car park at Ewell West station this morning.”
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