Chapel Walk scaffolding to stay for another year
Businesses blighted by scaffolding on Chapel Walk have been told they will have to wait another year before it is fully removed.
Contractors have announced the scaffolding is finally due to be completely taken down by September, 2020.
Break-ins, assaults, drug taking, defecating on doorsteps, businesses facing closure, broken promises and contractors owed hundreds of thousands of pounds have all been problems on the once popular shopping parade.
Some have described it as a ‘nightmare’ and a ‘perfect storm’ but now, after two years of waiting, the end is finally in sight.
Contractor Head Office 3 has stepped in and plans to resume the work at the end of October with the first parts of scaffolding coming down by the start of the New Year.
The company are planning to look into putting CCTV cameras up, stop leaks from the ceiling of the walk and encourage police to move anti-social behaviour along.
Glen Harding, CEO of Head Office 3, said they were asked by Coyne – the original developers – to work on the project until Coyne ran out of funds and stopped paying them.
He said he was owed a ‘huge’ £370,000 plus VAT and they were ‘desperate’ to get the work finished.
He said: “I’ve made the facade, all the windows I’ve paid for them and they are sat in a factory waiting to be installed.
“We were about to do it and then we stopped getting paid so I had to pull the guys off site, we are desperate to get it finished.
“Shop owners are just fed up of being told lies.
“If anyone goes in this building it’s a death trap, people would fall off, there’s an empty lift shaft which is six storeys – it’s now a very dangerous site.
“To make the scaffold come down it would cost roughly £50,000 to put a temporary facade on the building and that would be an even longer process.
“I’m really passionate about this – we want to do it.
“It’s better to have a few more months of pain than to have pain now, have it come down only for more pain later.”
Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment, said the council would look at jazzing up the street with a blue lit Christmas tunnel, better signage and possibly even a Santa’s grotto. He said they were also looking into helping affected businesses get compensation or reduce business rates.
Carl Dunne, of Cards and Gifts, said they were nearly at breaking point after losing 35 percent of profit and business owners were tired of ‘broken promises’.
He said: “I can’t see it getting better. Christmas carries a lot of retail business, through January, February and possibly into March. So we aren’t going to get the footfall, are we going to survive? Who can tell.
“We need financial help, that’s all we ever asked for.
“The rates are extortionate. I cannot emphasise that enough.
“We are not getting any value for money.”
He added he had been assaulted last weekend by a shoplifter and needed care from a paramedic. He said this and loss in trade made him ‘seriously consider’ closing shop.
“It’s just doom and gloom. I thought things were moving on when the council said ‘we are giving them notice and we will take it down’ but they’ve just proved they don’t have a backbone.
“They gave them final notice then went back on their word, that’s now expired and they’re not doing anything.”
The scaffolding was put up in September, 2017, as part of a £4.6 million scheme to build student apartments.
Last month the council gave developers, Fargate Evolve, 35 days notice to remove the scaffolding before removing it themselves and forcing developers to pay.
They then gave them an extension which passed without any work starting on site.
Coun Iqbal said: “It was reasonable in the circumstances to not insist on removal of the scaffold when there is a realistic prospect of work continuing. To remove the scaffold would only delay the scheme even further and leave Chapel Walk with an eyesore, unsafe building.
“We are pleased that the developer has met with Chapel Walk traders – who have already suffered enough from the lack of progress on this development. It is not in the council’s gift to offer compensation – this is a private scheme and our powers are limited in this matter.
“The council will continue to monitor matters closely and if for any reason there is further delay or failure to progress, action will be taken to remove the scaffold.”
Mark Mitchell, managing director of Fargate Evolve, said at the time they only recently took over responsibility for the site, with the financial support of West One.
Previously he said: “This has been an unacceptable situation for traders and shoppers in the area and since taking over from Coyne Group a few weeks ago, we have worked hard behind the scenes to find a solution to events that have been out of our control…
“We’re really looking forward to recommencing work on the site in the very near future, with our immediate priority being the external façade of the site and then the removal of the scaffolding and hoardings, which we know will bring welcome relief to local shop owners and shoppers, whose patience we greatly appreciate.”
Mr Harding said they are hoping to get funding to resume the work soon and are planning to get back on site around October 21.