Nelson man escapes death as house roof collapses

Norman Lyons and Jean Williams
Norman Lyons and Jean Williams

A NELSON man’s house was wrecked when roofs over an entire block broke down – but fortunately he was out at the time. He could well have been killed if he was there at the time.

It happened on Saturday evening in Elizabeth Street and, because there were fears it could have been an explosion, Nelson fire crews were called to the scene.

The house on Elizabeth Street, Nelson, with damaged roof.

The house on Elizabeth Street, Nelson, with damaged roof.

Owner Mr Norman Lyons (73) had out gone to the town’s KFC Club along with his fiancée Jean Williams (63), and officers turned up. Mr Lyons said: “The police came in and told me what had happened!” He has since had to stay at Jean’s house in Extwistle Street, Nelson, because his house was extensively wrecked and is a real danger.

Mr Lyons, a retired builder, has lived there for more than 30 years. There are four houses in the block and his is at the top end. The other three have been empty for years. He said: “I had repairs to the slates done about three weeks ago. Pendle Council owns the other three houses that have been 16 years empty.”

The roofs of all four collapsed on Saturday and the upstairs rooms and staircase were badly affected. The men working on the roof of Mr Lyons’ house told him the chimney on the other three houses looked to be leaning over. And he said: “The chimneys have now all gone.”

Mr Lyons had been offered cash for his house years ago by wallpaper firm Coloroll when they owned the mill next to the block. But he said: “I declined to let Coloroll to take it over. The offer of £11,000 was not enough to buy another property.”

As a result of the collapse, he cannot get into the house and remove items like his clothes. He explained: “The fire service said it was too dangerous to go in to collect them. The bottom house was always in a bad state. It’s been empty for a long time. I’ve been to see the council and I hope they will do something – they can’t blame me for it!

“Of course, I am very pleased I wasn’t in when it happened. It could have been very dangerous for us. I’ve not slept for two nights after it happened. The fire service told me there was two feet of rubble down the stairs. There could have been any one of us upstairs when it collapsed.”

Pendle Council economic and housing regeneration manager Julie Whittaker said: “The council bought the three houses on Elizabeth Street in February, 2007. At that time we offered to buy Mr Lyons’ property but he didn’t wish to sell. The block of properties was planned for demolition as part of the Housing Market Renewal programme and the site was going to be part of a wider redevelopment project. Since the HMR funding finished, the council has been looking at the best options for the three properties.

“We are currently looking at the cause of the collapse and making sure the site is safe.”