Whitehall Road: Everything we know as ‘unstable’ crane caused major disruptions and evacuations in central Leeds

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Issues with a crane at a building site in Leeds city centre caused major disruptions and nearby buildings to be evacuated on Tuesday.

A significant part of Whitehall Road was closed and residents and workers in the area from nearby buildings evacuated yesterday (November 14), after reports of an “industrial incident” at Riverside Way building site.

West Yorkshire Police (WYP) and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) both attended the scene and cordons were put up around a large area.

Here’s everything we know about the incident:

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A large area around Whitehall Road was cordoned off and buildings evacuated after reports of an "unstable" crane. Picture by National WorldA large area around Whitehall Road was cordoned off and buildings evacuated after reports of an "unstable" crane. Picture by National World
A large area around Whitehall Road was cordoned off and buildings evacuated after reports of an "unstable" crane. Picture by National World | National World

What happened?

At around 1.30pm, police were called to Riverside Way following the report of an industrial incident involving one of the cranes of the site. The nearby roads were closed and access to the area restricted with several work and residential buildings evacuated.

Trains to and from the nearby Leeds train station were also halted while emergency services dealt with the incident.

A spokesperson from the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: "We were called at 13.36 to reports of an unstable structure on Riverside Way in Leeds.

"Two crews from Leeds are in attendance dealing with the structure which is a large crane.

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"The area has been cleared of people - access is restricted and road closures are in place."

They also confirmed that no person was in the crane.

Our reporter on the scene, James Connolly, said at the time: "Wellington Place is now mostly empty following the evacuation, as cranes loom ominously."

At 5.30pm, WYFRS said that the structure had been made safe and that all their crews had left the scene, while WYP confirmed that a cordon would remain in the area “for a number of hours”.

At 6.52PM, West Yorkshire Police Force Command Hub wrote on X: “The emergency response is being scaled back, the cordon has been removed however closures remain on Whitehall Road with a small number of residential premises involved. Support for affected residents remains in place.”

You can see a number of photos from the scene here.

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What have the police said?

At just after 7pm, a spokesperson from the WYP said: “Following a multi-agency response to the industrial incident involving a crane on Riverside Way, Leeds, the crane has now been made safe without incident and the cordon has been removed.

“Localised road closures remained in place for a short period while displaced residents returned to their homes but have now been fully lifted.

“We thank the public for their patience while this incident was brought to a safe conclusion.”

Principal contractor at the building site, Bowmer and Kirkland, said in a statement on Wednesday: “Bowmer and Kirkland can confirm the following. During a planned inspection, engineers identified a fault with one of our site cranes at Whitehall Leeds.

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“This crane has been out of service since late last week. On advice from specialist engineers, we evacuated the site and contacted emergency services as a precautionary exclusion zone was set up. A recovery plan is being formulated and the engineering team will be on site this afternoon [yesterday] to assist the site team.”

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