Stop notice placed on Gretton building site after cracks appear in house teetering on edge of hole

The scene before they started shoring-up the bank on Thursday
The scene before they started shoring-up the bank on Thursday

An 80-year-old builder has been told to stop digging after a Gretton resident raised concerns that his house was about to fall into a huge hole.

Dave Clements, who has lived with his family at picturesque Clay Lane in Gretton for 23 years, has watched as major groundworks edged closer and closer to his house - which is recognisable across the borough for its annual dazzling Christmas lights displays.

Cracks have appeared in the side of the house

Cracks have appeared in the side of the house

As cracks began to appear in his walls, the authorities turned up on site and this week Corby Borough Council issued a stop notice preventing an octogenarian builder from doing any more work until the correct certificates are in place.

The Health and Safety Executive, CBC building control and Dave’s own engineer have also raised concerns.

Builders have had numerous failed attempts to get planning permission for the site over the past decade, and finally a planning inspector gave permission for five homes on the sloped plot last year. But one condition was that the developer had a decent construction management plan in place before work could begin.

In April, the site was cleared of shrubs and trees and then diggers arrived to start groundworks for the development. But on May 21, Dave realised that all was not as it should be.

Dave's pretty house is on the edge of the development in Gretton

Dave's pretty house is on the edge of the development in Gretton

"There have been so many planning applications on the site and everyone in the village was up in arms when it was finally granted," said Dave.

"We were actually not that worried about the development despite it being so close to our house because we've looked out over an overgrown wilderness for years.

"They started doing work without a party wall agreement but we still weren't massively concerned and tried to get along with the builders.

"But then on May 21 when they started cutting the bank away adjacent to the house I wasn't happy with it.

The view from Dave's house. Last week's heavy rain didn't help matters

The view from Dave's house. Last week's heavy rain didn't help matters

"They reassured me they were doing it within all the building regulations.

"It was two-and-a-half weeks later that the rain started and that's when it became really concerning. The bank next to the house just started slipping away and cracks began to appear."

Corby Council arrived on site last week and ordered building to stop. The building firm - run by 80-year-old James Edgar of Rutland-based Edren Homes - has now begun shoring up and backfilling the slope next to Dave's house.

"It wouldn't have been so bad if he'd held his hands up and apologised," said Dave. "But he hasn't. He's doing this shoring-up work under duress."

Serious cracks have started to emerge in the brickwork

Serious cracks have started to emerge in the brickwork

Dave, who raises thousands every year for his spectacular festive lights displays, has now employed an environmental / technical engineer who has expressed his own concerns about the building work.

Dave added: "It's actually scary. We heard a bang while we were in bed the other night and we jumped up. Thankfully it was just one of the cats but we're on tenterhooks.

"My daughter's bedroom was recently decorated and there are now cracks appearing in there.

"We have neighbours in a cottage in Arnhill Road that has no footings and now they're incredibly concerned."

A Corby Council spokesman said: "Corby Borough Council is aware of building works taking place without the relevant planning permission at a site in Gretton.

"As of 18th June 2019, a Temporary Stop Notice was issued by the Borough Council to the developer prohibiting any work to take place for a total of 28 days.

The plans for the triangular site on the corner of Clay Lane and Station Road

The plans for the triangular site on the corner of Clay Lane and Station Road

"We continue to monitor the site and further appropriate action is also being considered.”

The HSE has been contacted for comment.

One of the directors of Edren Homes responded by email to say that they were not in possession of the facts pertaining to the site.

The long and complicated planning history of 9 Station Road

In 2007 developer Bramble Homes was refused permission for five homes on the site. An appeal to the planning inspectorate against that decision failed.

Then the house that sat on the plot at 9 Station Road was demolished and partially cleared. During that clearance police had to be called in to stop clearance during nesting season.

In 2009 a second developer - Grove Engineering - applied for permission to build four homes. That application was also refused, and a subsequent appeal against it dismissed.

Then in 2010, Grove Engineering submitted another application for four homes. Once again, planners refused it and an appeal agreed that the site was unsuitable for the proposed development.

Through the planning process, officers had raised concerns about the proposed removal of trees including a protected Monterey pine on a pivotal part of the site. In 2015, Corby Council received an application to remove the pine tree on the site because it had become diseased.

Then in 2017 a further application, this time for five houses, was submitted to Corby Borough Council by Paul Blott - owner of Grove Engineering. Once again, the authority refused to allow permission but an appeal was launched and planning inspector Andrew Owen decided to grant permission - subject to several conditions.

One of those was was that a construction management plan was drawn up before the commencement of any work.

That hasn’t happened. No construction management plan is recorded on the Corby Borough Council website and work started at the end of April.

Just before work started, Mr Blott sold the land to the owner of Rutland-based Edren Homes James Edgar, formerly known as Edgar Clark, for a figure thought to be upwards of £400,000. James Edgar is now believed to be in charge of the building work on site, although he was not available for comment.

Dave puts on a charity Christmas lights display every year which attracts people from miles around.

Dave puts on a charity Christmas lights display every year which attracts people from miles around.