Michigan Construction Ltd has been building flats on a site in Job’s Yard, next to the Prince of Wales pub, and on Monday afternoon (June 20) the road that leads Silver Street to Gold Street was closed.
Metal barriers were also placed to prevent adjacent businesses using their premises and an adjoining car park sectioned off while building defects identified under the Building Regulations are rectified.
North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) building control staff attended the scene to oversee the setting up the cordon blocking the route leading to Meeting Lane.
Cllr David Brackenbury, North Northamptonshire Council’s executive member for growth and regeneration, said: “We have been liaising with the developer of this site in Job’s Yard, Kettering, over recent months because of concerns about the building work taking place and adherence to planning regulations.
“The development has been subject to enforcement action under Building Regulations. This requires that the developer rectifies, or puts forward a plan to rectify, building defects identified under the Building Regulations.
“As building defects remain outstanding, further legal action is being considered and, as such, a structural engineers report had been commissioned.
“Now we have received the report a decision has been taken to temporarily close Job’s Yard to the public so our own assessments can take place.
“Safety of the public is our biggest priority and the closure is being undertaken as a precaution to ensure that everything has been done to ensure this.
“We will keep the closure under review whilst we continue our own assessments and apologise for any inconvenience caused.
“We will be liaising with residents and businesses in the immediate area to answer any queries.”
No further stop notice has been issued and work continues on the site today (Wednesday, June 22).
An original planning application in 2008 for four shopping units and six one bedroom flats was approved by Kettering Borough Council (KBC). After it had lapsed, in 2012 the same application was approved again with changes to the number of retail units – now one shop and seven apartments.
In 2015 an application to change to the planning to 14 flats was refused by KBC. As only limited works had been undertaken on the site, Michigan Construction Ltd was advised to submit a fresh application.
Work started illegally in 2018 on the shop and seven apartments three-storey building with the company applying for retrospective planning permission. Due to time constraints the developer couldn’t resolve all conditions placed by the planning committee and an application to ‘discharge conditions’ was refused on December 5, 2018 – permission then lapsed.
In April 2019, an application for 14 apartments was submitted and refused by KBC and again in August when the plans were changed to 10 apartments, once again refused.
Finally in December of the same year approval was given for three shops and seven flats a ‘Section 73A’ retrospective application. An application in March 2020 to change planning permission to nine apartments was again refused by KBC. This decision was overturned after an appeal to the Government's Planning Inspectorate in January 2021 granting planning permission for nine apartments - six one-bedroom and three two-bedroom. New plans increased height from three to four storeys with a stepped profile to set the upper storeys back further from neighbours.
But since the decision to overturn the refused plans, the Kettering-based construction company began adding an extra fifth floor – with planning permission reliant on an appeal.
Two temporary stop notices were issued by North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) – replacing KBC as the planning authority.
The stop notice issued in August 2021 by NNC, now lapsed, stated that the builder was to cease ‘all construction activity associated with the building of a five-storey block of flats - other than limited work required to make this site safe’ adding the reason for the notice being issued as ‘a fifth floor is being constructed unlawfully following the grant of planning permission under KET/2019/0908 which was for four storeys only’.
Michigan Construction Ltd appealed to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate and while the company’s owner Marcus Fielding awaits the decision, construction has been continuing with the risk that any building above the fourth storey could be ordered to be demolished.
In a statement Mr Fielding sent to this paper, he said he wanted to ‘highlight some of the issues’ and had no concerns about the integrity of the build.
He said: “We feel that the way to regenerate the town centre is for people to live and work in the town centre and I intend to live in one of the apartments myself.“The building is the initial concept unit of a multi-million pound, private equity, Yards regeneration program rejected by the council.“Brownfield, city centre regeneration should be encouraged and through the permitted development route we hope that our current appeal is successful.“The building’s structure is unique and is highly insulated to provide low-carbon accommodation. The contemporary design steps away from our neighbours.“The current layout was always considered and we have the loading of the building at ca (sic) 15 per cent of capacity.
"We have no concerns with the integrity of the build and have not been provided with the council’s report.”He added: “We employed several local people who have lost their job due the planning delays.”
Since the extra fifth floor was completed, work has continued with structures on the roof towering over neighbouring buildings.
Building Control staff must act if a structure poses an ‘immediate threat to life or safety’, and the owner is unable or unwilling to carry out urgent repairs. The council can act to remove the danger and in these circumstances the council will make ‘all reasonable attempts to cooperate’ with the building owner before carrying out essential works.
If a building remains unsafe then the council will undertake the ‘minimum amount of work necessary’ to make a building safe, and seek to recover costs from the owner.