MP calls for action over 'unsafe' Kettering flats development

The flats were built with more storeys than were given planning permission
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An MP has urged authorities to use all their available powers to make a Kettering town centre apartment building project safe for residents and passers-by.

Kettering Conservative Philip Hollobone has spoken out over issues at an unfinished and ‘unsafe’ block of flats in Job’s Yard, being developed by Michigan Construction Ltd, which has been built with more storeys than it has planning permission for.

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As the planning authority, North Northants Council (NNC) has to enforce remedy action, identified by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), through its building control department.

Job's Yard, Kettering - the road has been closed for health and safety reasonsJob's Yard, Kettering - the road has been closed for health and safety reasons
Job's Yard, Kettering - the road has been closed for health and safety reasons

Mr Hollobone said: “I welcome the intervention from the HSE which has statutory powers to enforce compliance with health and safety standards. In this case the HSE is concerned that the structure has been rendered unsafe by the safe load capacity of both the blockwork walls and supporting ground being exceeded and by the scaffolding being unsafe and in danger of collapse.

"A notice was served on Michigan Construction by the HSE in June. Now that we are in October, I have written to the HSE urging it to use all its available powers to render the building and the scaffolding safe as soon as possible.”

In response, Michigan Construction Ltd owner Marcus Fielding said: “We will be working round the clock to address all outstanding concerns.”

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The car parks surrounding the Job's Yard apartment site have been closed offThe car parks surrounding the Job's Yard apartment site have been closed off
The car parks surrounding the Job's Yard apartment site have been closed off
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Toller Church members and visitors have been unable to park vehicles in the church car park for a month after it was deemed too risky to use.

In July, the Job’s Yard access road to the car park off Meeting Lane was closed – the only access was via the bollard-controlled and pedestrianised Gold Street.

The car park was sectioned off for three months until the whole area was cordoned off.

Toller Church minister, Rev Helen Wakefield-Carr, said: “We were told that there was a risk of falling debris because of the deteriorating weather.

The road next to the Prince of Wales pub has been closed to pedestrians and carsThe road next to the Prince of Wales pub has been closed to pedestrians and cars
The road next to the Prince of Wales pub has been closed to pedestrians and cars
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“It’s really hampering the church. It’s the people who need it the most who are being the most affected.

"We have people coming to our toddler group who would have used our car park – they can’t now. People who are disabled, the elderly and frail need to be able to access our community rooms during the week but now they can’t get here if they can’t manage the walk.

”We have a theatre group, Scouts, Cubs and Beavers – we now have a big risk with young people walking through town now it’s getting darker at night.”

Mr Hollobone added: "I am extremely concerned that local churchgoers and other premises in the immediate vicinity are having their access and parking disrupted and I am also worried that pedestrians could be at risk."

The fifth floor, built without planning permission has been ordered to be removed after a planning appealThe fifth floor, built without planning permission has been ordered to be removed after a planning appeal
The fifth floor, built without planning permission has been ordered to be removed after a planning appeal
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At the start of September, council chiefs said they were ‘urgently assessing their next steps’ but the Kettering apartment block’s unlawful extra floor still remains in place.

Cllr David Brackenbury, NNC’s executive member for growth and regeneration, had said the authority was liaising with the developer.

He had said: “We are continuing to closely monitor the site and are liaising regularly with the Health and Safety Executive. We are urgently assessing the next steps and we wish to resolve the issue as quickly as we can.”

Job’s Yard was cordoned off in June and a section between Silver Street and Meeting Lane remains closed although some pedestrians have been ignoring the unsecured barriers.

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The road has been closed since JuneThe road has been closed since June
The road has been closed since June

A total of 14 breaches by Michigan Construction Ltd have been listed by the HSE. As well as breaches of the Safety At Work Act 1974, Michigan Construction Ltd has breached Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, and Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The immediate prohibition notice served against Michigan Construction Ltd issued in June 2022 said: “You have not taken all practicable steps to prevent danger to any persons from structural collapse, namely there have been significant departures from design information and specifications as to render the structure unsafe, including exceeding the safe load capacity of blockwork walls and supporting ground, this being a matter within your control.

"You have not taken suitable and sufficient steps to ensure that the scaffold is a safe place of work and to prevent the scaffold from collapsing for the following reasons:

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- It is tied to another structure that is structurally unsafe

- It has not been subject to an inspection regime on the site within each seven day period

- It is not assembled in conformity with a generally recognised standard configuration.”

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. A council can act to remove the danger and in these circumstances make ‘all reasonable attempts to cooperate’ with the building owner before carrying out essential works.

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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.

In a joint statement NNC Northall ward councillors Kevin Thurland, Ian Jelley and Anup Pandey said: "We are fully aware of the situation with Job's Yard and the breach of planning which we know is concerning to our residents and businesses in the area.

"Our building control teams continue to work with the HSE to update them on the continuing issues and support the two prohibition notices against the owner, as well as continuing to progress our own enforcement actions. We fully appreciate that residents and businesses want to see action and this case continues to be a priority for the council, and we know our officers continue in their efforts to bring this issue to a suitable conclusion."