Residents near the Futurist site are afraid their worst fears could be coming true as cracks appear in buildings and roads, which they say weren’t there before.
One resident, Mick Rivers of Prospect Place off Blands Cliff, has clocked the vibration count in decibels at 22. The upper limit is 15.
Mr Rivers is afraid he wouldn’t be able to sell his house if he put it on the market.
The cracks appear to have been caused by the heavy-duty sheet-piling equipment used by contractor Willmott Dixon to drive huge piles into the ground, to prevent landslip.
Janet Jefferson, borough and county councillor for the area, says permission for sheet-piling has never been granted.
“Willmott Dixon started sheet-piling within the site without initially informing residents or businesses, who had been advised way back in August 2017 that, with the exception of the King Street steps, no sheet piling would take place”, says Cllr Jefferson.
“However, in their ‘neighbour’ letter some 10 days after piling, they advised that slippage was taking place within the bank, with ground movement of a few millimetres, and that sheet piling had to be carried out.
“Therefore, at a full council meeting, I posed a question regarding cracks appearing within properties due to the piling of 18 metre poles being driven some 12 metres into the ground.
“The council advised this was the responsibility of the contractor and tried to re-assure residents and businesses that there is a 12-year defects liability guarantee”.
Cllr Jefferson says the method of sheet piling used has caused “severe stability issues”.
“Cracks have appeared to walls inside and outside properties, particularly within Blands Cliff which, as both contractors and SBC officers are aware, is a very vulnerable area”.
The vibrations and noise created by piling have been felt in a wide area. Residents have reported doors opening on their own. At least two council meetings in the nearby town hall have had to be paused while someone asked Willmott Dixon to take a break.
The company has now temporarily halted the sheet-piling while the area behind the piles is filled in. This should reduce vibrations when piling work resumes for one day only, during the week commencing 11 March.
A council statement says: “Willmott Dixon and the council have received a small number of reports of cracking in properties surrounding the site. We will continue to support the residents and property owners affected by these works.
“Detailed internal and external condition surveys were undertaken of all properties surrounding the site in advance of the demolition and slope stabilisation project commencing in 2017. When the works on site are completed, Willmott Dixon will be happy to revisit any properties of those who still have concerns, to compare the conditions with those found in the original surveys”.
The contractor says it will rectify any damage caused as a result of its operations when the work is finished.