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Property developer sentenced over Manchester gas explosion

A property development firm has been fined £100,000 following a major gas explosion that destroyed dozens of homes in South Manchester.

PJ Livesey Group Ltd. was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the blast at the Didsbury Gate development on 8 December 2009.
The aftermath of the gas explosion at the Didsbury Gate development in South Manchester

On 29 November, Manchester Crown Court heard that the former Withington Hospital building on Nell Lane was being converted into houses and apartments when a worker cut through a six-inch gas pipe in an underground tunnel.

The 41-year-old from Elton, Cheshire, suffered burns to his hands and face when gas inside the pipe ignited. About an hour later, gas that had continued to leak from the damaged pipe ignited again causing an explosion that destroyed a large part of the site.

The emergency services evacuated residents from hundreds of homes following the initial gas leak, including 21 apartments at the Didsbury Gate development which already had people living in them.

Businesses, three schools, a hospital, two health units and a police station also had to be evacuated, and the Urban Search and Rescue team was brought in to search the rubble to see if anyone was trapped.

Debris from the site landed on The Birches Primary School nearby, damaging buildings, a play area and the power supply for the school.

The court was told that PJ Livesey Group, the principal contractor for the development, had obtained a diagram from National Grid during the planning stages of the project which showed a gas main running into the site.

However, the company 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.

PJ Livesey Group Ltd. pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 after failing to ensure people's safety. The company, of Beacon Road West in Trafford Park, was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £21,404.
The aftermath of the gas explosion at the Didsbury Gate development in South Manchester


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