OFFICERS at Craven District Council are looking into taking "formal enforcement action" against a house-building firm which Skipton residents claim has made their lives a "living hell".
Construction company Lovell is building 57 houses and apartments on the site of the former Craven District Council offices in Granville Street.
But householders say the company has not stuck to the promises it made before work started to keep disruption and noise to a minimum. And they say heavy lorries have frequently made dangerous and damaging manoeuvres on the nearby streets over many months. They say contractors at the site have parked mostly in the surrounding streets, even though on-site parking should have been provided, and that loading and unloading often takes place on streets outside the site.
Following complaints from residents, a council team is investigating whether action can be taken against the company.
A council spokesman said: "The planning permission included a condition that the developers had to comply with a construction traffic management plan. The planning enforcement team has received a number of complaints that this plan has been breached and therefore have actively sought the developers' voluntary co-operation to comply with its requirements. Complaints have, however, continued to be received and planning officers are considering the evidence for taking formal enforcement action."
Householders say they contacted on-site managers to complain many times about the problems. They were told things would change, but, residents claim, the situation would improve slightly and then more problems would emerge.
In June, householders contacted the 'Considerate Constructors' scheme, a national initiative set up by the construction industry to improve its image, to demand that Lovell be removed from it.
They compiled a dossier outlining how, they alleged, Lovell had ignored its own undertakings on how the work would be done with minimum disruption.
The dossier, which included photographs of various incidents involving construction lorries, alleged that Lovell had failed to meet the criteria for the scheme by:
Failing to protect individuals, property and the neighbourhood from the risk of harm and damage;
Not keeping the impact of deliveries, parking, and work on the public highway to a minimum;
Failing to keep residents affected by the work properly informed ;
Not implementing systems to keep the public, visitors and workforce safe;
Failing to minimise the adverse effects of vibration, noise, and fumes;
Not keeping its workforce focused on continuously improving safety.
But Considerate Constructors officials rejected their appeal.
The scheme's David Crook said: "Our aim is to raise standards and this is done through site visits, but on a consultative and informative basis. Our aim is not to 'catch them out' but rather identify and recognise good practice and detail those areas where there are gaps and shortfalls or simply room for improvement. Registration is voluntary and sites are under no obligation to register unless directed by their client."
Residents felt they had been "kicked in the teeth" by the decision - but have welcomed possible action by Craven Council.
One resident, who asked not to be named, said: "We are all so fed up with the situation it's not true. Our lives have been made a misery since work started, so obviously we are glad that the council may be doing something at last. But whatever happens it can't make up for the incredible disruption and anxiety we have had to face.
"Our letter to Considerate Constructors pointed out that Lovell had the status of preferred developer when they bought the site from the council. They knew all about the constraints of building on the site for ten years. They had a long time to plan their operations. We were prepared for some disruption, but Lovell should not have been able to ignore their own undertakings and their duty to their neighbours - us."
Lovell regional director Simon Medler said: “We are extremely sorry about the problems and inconvenience being experienced by residents living near the Granville Street development.
"Working considerately and safely is of the utmost importance to the company and we have introduced a number of measures aimed at resolving these problems. These include employing an extra worker to manage traffic entering and leaving the site entrance in Granville Street (in addition to the member of staff who already manages traffic at the Brook Street and Gargrave Road/Park Avenue junction) and providing off-site parking for site workers at a separate location.
"In addition, we have been continuing to contact and meet with our suppliers and subcontractors to ensure they understand the traffic management system at the site and know that they must fully comply with it. As part of this, we are asking all vehicles delivering supplies to contact the site before they approach it so we can ensure they follow the correct route and procedure.
"I would like to take this opportunity to once again apologise to residents and stress that we would be very willing to meet with any residents in the area who would like to discuss their concerns. We are in regular contact with the council regarding the development and have not had any notification regarding enforcement action.”