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AR Demolition level chimney at former shoe machinery factory

AR Demolition level chimney

Former British Union Shoe Machinery works makes way for new housing development

The Leicester city skyline was re-modelled in an instance on Saturday 21 January when an iconic 115ft tall chimney at the former British Union Shoe Machinery (BUSM) works in Ross Walk, Belgrave, was blown up in spectacular fashion.

Hundreds of people watched as the chimney was demolished by AR Demolition to make way for new housing. Westleigh Developments plans to build 1,200 homes on the 30-acre site, as well as six play areas, shops, cafes, commercial units and a nursery, at a cost of around £15 million.


Residents from 26 homes, whose houses were inside the safety exclusion zone, were invited as VIPs to the controlled demolition.

Also in attendance, were former employees of BUSM one of whom, 62-year-old Tom Keville, pushed the buttons to trigger the explosions to bring the chimney down at exactly 11am. Tom, who worked at the factory starting as an apprentice 47 years ago, won the chance to have his finger on the fire button after bidding £1,700 in a charity auction.

It was a bitter sweet moment for Tom, but sad for others such as former management accountant trainee, Peter Barratt who had come to bid a fond farewell to the landmark, part of the huge factory which in it’s hey day was the largest manufacturer of footwear machinery in the world, employing some 4,500 people.

Richard Dolman, managing director of AR Demolition Ltd, who oversaw the demolition of the chimney said: ‘It is an adrenaline rush. It was a perfect job.’

AR Demolition began work on the four-phase contract in mid 2011 to clear the site of the main four-storey factory and associated buildings and infrastructure. The chimney demolition is part of the third phase of the job.

Commenting on the controlled explosion, Richard said: ‘Preparation as usual was key to the success of the blast. Charges were strategically placed on the morning of the demolition. The evacuation was completed 20 minutes ahead of schedule and the exclusion zone given the all clear.’


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