“As compliance with the SafeWork Notice is required by 18 December 2020, the Owners Corporation is currently arranging for an exclusion zone to be established on that date,” the letter says.

“You should assume that as and from 18 December 2020 your lot will no longer be accessible. Owner occupiers and tenants will not be able to trade from the lot for an indefinite period of time from this date.”

The improvement notice attached to the letter does not specifically mention the need to evacuate, but states people may be injured by falling bricks and rubble and says an exclusion zone is one of multiple solutions to the problem.

Ward Mellick, a co-owner of an IGA store and attached cafe and bottle shop in the Mascot Towers complex, said it would be impossible to move the business’s assets and stock in six days.

“There’s no way you can just go and find a place overnight and re-establish your business,” Mr Mellick said. “A week before Christmas, that’s 70 people out of work.”

But a spokesperson for the NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, said the improvement notice didn’t require any retailers to close.

“There are a range of measures that can be implemented that will ensure compliance,” the spokesperson said, adding SafeWork was working with the owners corporation and the businesses “to ensure the safety of workers and patrons and the continued safe operation of the retail premises”.

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The owners of Mascot Towers are seeking several million dollars in damages from the developer of a neighbouring building they allege is responsible for major cracks appearing in the apartment complex they were forced to evacuate in June 2019, with a hearing scheduled in the NSW Supreme Court last week.

The owners corporation alleges in court documents that deep excavation work for the Peak Towers basement car park led to the foundations of its building being compromised and unable to support the loads bearing down on it.

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