Richard Branson's Virgin Hotel faces court over damage to nearby Edinburgh restaurant

Owner of the Mexican restaurant Mariachi, Majid Shahfar, claims developers have damaged his business.

Saturday, 11th January 2020, 4:00 pm
Mr Shahfar, who has run the business for 16 years said he will forge ahead with court action against Virgin Hotels.

Richard Branson could be taken to court by an Edinburgh businessman who claims groundwork on the billionaire’s new Virgin Hotel has caused serious structural damage to his restaurant.

Owner of the Mexican restaurant Mariachi, Majid Shahfar, told the Evening News his family-owned restaurant is literally hanging by a thread due to construction work which he claimed has caused cracks of more than an inch to open up in his property’s walls.

The scale of the damage is so significant that the outside is visible from inside the Victoria Street restaurant through one of the cracks, some measuring more than an inch wide.

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Some of the cracks on the walls.

Cracks appearing

Mr Shahfar, who has run the business for 16 years said he will “forge ahead” with court action against Virgin Hotels.

Virgin Hotels said construction work was undertaken with “great care” and added that offers of remedial work had also been turned down.

Mr Shahfar claims his issues began during groundwork by Virgin Hotel’s contractors Will Rudd Davidson last year.

On September 27, 2019 Mr Shahfar’s son, who manages the business came into the restaurant to find large cracks in the walls, some measuring more than an inch wide.

The cracks, which have widened in the months since, were blamed on the groundworks for the hotel and potential vibration from piling works by two engineers, hired by Mr Shahfar to examine the damage.

It is understood the report was handed to the Evening News before Mr Shahfar passed it over to the Virgin Hotel team.

The insurance policy was also taken out two weeks before the damage was first noticed, although Mr Shahfar says he had got the quotes in August.

The restaurant building’s extension, built some time after the original structure, is described as having “rotated away” from the main building by the engineer. The report, from loss adjusters Crawford, states: “There is evidence of previous stone repairs and lateral restraint works having been carried out to the property but, there is clearly recent movement evident which we attribute to removal of lateral support in the course of the excavation works by the contractors and possibly vibration from the piling works being carried out.”

Another report, summarising the damage to the building, from Edinburgh-based Buildings Investigation Centre, states groundwork “significantly altered” the foundations of the building, and said piling works “exacerbated” the damage.

The summary added that the work resulted in “movement at the base of rear extension walls and subsequent pull out and damage at the angle ties and the cracking and movement that occurred on 27th September 2019”.

'Pure negligence'

Mr Shahfar quickly reported the damage to site engineers and Edinburgh City Council, who attended the site and deemed the building safe.

A temporary solution was offered to Mr Shahfar by contractors Will Rudd Davidson at their expense using metal struts which the businessman described as “tying the moving part to the good building”.

Mr Shahfar rejected the offer and is demanding a permanent solution to the damage, for which the developers of the Virgin Hotel do not accept liability.

He said: “It is not fair, I know accidents happen but be reasonable, fix the damage and we can both move on. It is my livelihood, I worked all my life and ran a good business and we are just getting on with our business and this happens. It has caused us huge stress.”

He added: “It is pure negligence and not paying attention. You are effectively hanging a section of a building on a good building and in time it will do damage to the good building.

“All I want is my building back to normal.”

'No evidence' of construction causing damage

A spokesman on behalf of Virgin Hotels said: “The construction work on India Buildings has been undertaken with great care and following best practice to ensure that any disturbance to neighbours and neighbouring properties is minimised as much as possible.

“The project team has been made aware of the cracks in the extension to the Mariachi Restaurant and has been in correspondence with the owner and his representatives.

“So far, despite the offer of a number of meetings and discussions the team has not been presented with any evidence that the construction work at the hotel site has caused these structural issues.

“The project team also, in good faith and without prejudice, offered appropriate remedial works but that offer was not taken up. The offer of a meeting to present any such evidence remains open.

“If anyone does present any such evidence it will be considered fairly and in line with construction industry practice and guidelines.”