Public Meeting – Subsidence Issue Regent Circus Development
19:00 hrs Friday 7 March, Council Chamber, Swindon Civic Offices
Note of meeting
1. Residents and business representatives from Eastcott Ward, and the local and regional media (the Council Chamber was full). Speakers: Robert Buckland MP South Swindon, James Digby – Ashfield Land (Developers); Rob Martin – Regional Director ISG (Contractors); Pete Crease – Site Environmental Officer ISG. Meeting chaired by Peter Green – Secretary, Back Garden. Also present Nick Hann – Press Officer ISG.
2. The Planning Department of SBC declined the invitation to speak.
3. Peter Green introduced the meeting; apologised for Back Garden’s Chair Tracy White’s unavoidable absence; and gave the objective for the meeting – to discover if there were any further problems other than the Rehoboth Chapel, Cross Street Garage and two garages at the bottom of gardens on the north side of Cross Street and if there were problems clarifying what householders should do; and understand more about the specific problems of the Rehoboth Chapel.
Robert Buckland MP
4. Robert Buckland then explained why he had thrown his weight behind organizing the meeting and his objective of greater communication and better understanding across the board.
James Digby – Ashfield Land
5. James gave the context of the development; sales had allowed the new Swindon College building at North Star; rejuvenation will create 4-500 jobs.
Rob Martin – ISG
6. Rob explained the size of ISG and its operating philosophy in regard to neighbours to its work sites. He explained that he was Director of the Company and based in Bristol. He introduced Pete Creese as the main point of contact for issues from Regent Circus that affected residents. ISG were aware of four properties with problems (the ones listed above at 3). Rob said ISG had written to all neighbours offering to visit properties before work started. However none of those present had received such letters. To date three of the affected properties had been visited.
7. ISG were aware that the area had complex geology. Their engineers had detected movement last summer, but after remedial work this movement had stopped. Further movement was detected after Christmas and new remedial work put in hand. ISG’s explanation for the second movement was the abnormally high rainfall in December, January and February. ISG believe that movement has now ceased, recent remedial work has been grouting behind the southern boundary piling and revetment. That is injecting concrete on the uphill (south) side of the site boundary.
8. Rob gave an assurance that ISG will write to all its neighbours offering to visit and survey any problems. Any problems caused by the Regent Circus work will be put right. There is no time limit for this work and they will continue to monitor and be involved after the Development has been completed.
Pete Creese – ISG
9. Pete reinforced Rob’s comments. Peter Green underlined Pete Creese’s commitment to openness by the way he had posted his mobile phone number and email address on Back Garden’s Facebook Group.
Public Questions – other affected properties
10. It was rapidly apparent that there were issues beyond the four already identified. Some problems were related to the vibration from piling in the summer as well as the recent subsidence. ISG repeated their offer that they will visit any property that may be affected and put right any problems.
11. Several landlords and homeowners raised specific questions over long term affects on property values of a subsidence event and of temporarily rehousing tenants. ISG confirmed that they would do whatever was needed to rectify all problems that had been caused by their work, but detailed answers depended on the outcome of the surveys. Similarly long term work or the long term impact on property values was dependent on problems that are identified. but if necessary people’s hotel costs could be met.
12. Jim Bishop, SBC Buildings Control, confirmed that there was a history of subsidence problems across the Borough.
13. Peter Green stated that Back Garden will ensure a letter offering site surveys will go out and offered the group’s help in distributing it. He also offered Back Garden’s help in securing preliminary legal advice for property owners.
14. ISG spoke to several residents independently aft the meeting closed.
15. IGS described their plans for the Chapel. They had stabilized the building and it was now safe. SBC Building Control confirmed that in their opinion the building will not collapse. ISG intend to return to the Chapel once the Regent Circus site work has been complete. They will then replace the short-term supports and undertake major remedial work that will allow the Chapel to be used as a place of worship. They are currently working with the Chapel to find an alternative meeting place.
16. Richard Cook, Deacon, Rehoboth Chapel confirmed this was happening however he wished that IGS had moved faster to secure the building and find alternative venues.
17. With no further questions, Peter thanked the participants and drew the meeting to a close at 20:00 hrs.
10 March 2014