Councillor calls for Kettering's stalled council house builds to move quicker

A Labour councillor has offered to pick up a shovel to get Kettering’s delayed new council homes built quicker.

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 3:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th January 2020, 3:20 pm
Cllr Don says the new council housing is desperately needed.

Problems with finding a suitable contractor have meant that Kettering Council’s plans to build 28 homes at two small sites in the town have not yet got off the ground, two years after they were first agreed.

The Conservative-run authority is now going out to tender again for the 22-home Scott Road development but opposition councillor Maggie Don said things need to move quicker.

Six homes are also approved for Albert Street, but a contractor has not yet been found.

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She said: “It has been two years in the making. We desperately need that housing. We have got to do something to get things moving. I will go and dig the hole myself if you like.”

Head of housing John Conway said the authority had initially considered that it would be more economical to appoint one contractor to do the building work on both sites but original proposed contractor Westleigh pulled out after a takeover. A report to the council’s executive committee on Wednesday (January 15) said the authority had then twice gone out to tender in March last year and again in September but both attempts had failed.

The first tender did not find a contractor who could pass the financial checks and the second did not receive any bids.

The council has now reviewed the way it will deal with the builds and instead will separate them and use a design and build contract. It agreed at the executive meeting to contract Perfect Circle at £277,354 to carry out the professional pre-build work for the Scott Road scheme.

Mr Conway said the authority would go out to tender next month to find a builder and that it was hoped builders would be on site by May. The authority has earmarked more than £2.85m for the works.

Cllr Mark Rowley said the authority’s lack of recent experience in house building had in part led to the delays.

He said: “This is the first time the council has built houses in a generation. So we are having to re-learn. We came across problems that we had not encountered before.”

Cllr Rowley said the combined sites were too big a job for the smaller developers and too small a job for the bigger firms.

Council leader Russell Roberts assured Cllr Don that the authority had not been standing still on the issue.

He said: “The work goes on all the time. It has been difficult but we are making some progress.”

The authority has 3,800 homes in its council stock with 30 per cent of those built before the Second World War.