Swindon residents angry over subsidence near excavation site

Rehoboth Baptist Chapel
Image caption Rehoboth Baptist Chapel on Prospect Hill, which neighbours the Regent Circus development, has been forced to close after cracks appeared in the walls and ceiling

Residents in part of Swindon have said they fear nearby excavation work has damaged their homes and businesses.

Property owners maintain that cracks appearing in walls and ceilings are a direct result of work being carried out at the former Swindon College site in the town centre.

A £50m retail and leisure complex is being built for development company Ashfield Land by contractors ISG.

The problem is so severe a chapel has been deemed unsafe and forced to close.

Richard Cooke, deacon of the 130-year-old Rehoboth Baptist Chapel on Prospect Hill, said the building has been closed since 24 January after cracks appeared in the walls and ceiling.

He said: "It got so bad that a bird came into the chapel through a large crack in the ceiling. I'm pretty upset about it.

"It's an inconvenience to the people who go to the church and we all wonder what's going to happen."

'Things would shake'

It is believed the damage may have been caused by heavy excavation work on the hillside to make way for a 450-space multi-story car park.

Mr Cooke said ISG has promised to repair the cracks but nothing has been done so far.

Nicola Cannon, who lives in nearby Cross Street, said cracks have also appeared in the walls of her garage over the past two weeks.

She said: "I'm slightly concerned because the cracks weren't there before they started excavating, and they are quite big."

Ms Cannon said "things would shake" when work was being carried out.

Image caption Building contractor ISG has been carrying out excavation work for the development since work began in May

Terry Way, service manager at Cross Street Garage, said the cellar wall started cracking two months ago.

He said: "ISG said they would send somebody over to look at it, but they still haven't done so.

"It's very annoying, and we feel that we've been very heavily let down."

An ISG spokesman said: "We understand the importance of promptly addressing any concerns residents and local businesses may have and we are arranging to carry out detailed investigations of these properties as quickly as possible."

The Regent Circus development will include a six-screen cinema, a supermarket and eight restaurants and is expected to be complete by the autumn.

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