A BURNT-OUT building has cost almost £250,000 to ‘make safe’ despite calls it should have been demolished two years ago.
On December 2, 2010, flames ripped through Chester Enterprise Centre, off Hoole Bridge in Hoole, reducing it to a blackened shell and destroying 50 businesses.
Now, as Cheshire West and Chester Council finally finish demolishing the building, The Chronicle can reveal the council has spent an ‘unsustainable’ amount of insurance money employing 24-hour security on the site to stop trespassers hurting themselves.
Figures revealed to us through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show that since the fire, the council has spent almost £250,000, keeping the building safe and clearing the site – but not a single penny has been spent on planning for its future use.
More than £174,000 of the total expenditure, which comes from a hefty insurance pay out, was used to employ 24-hour-security on site, considered a ‘dangerous environment’ by CWaC.
Despite the round the clock security police have been called to the derelict site seven times in the past two years after reports of rough-sleepers, youths messing around in the wreckage and suspicious activity in the building.
To date the £245,700 cost of the enterprise centre includes:
£8,700 boarding up windows, doors and fire escapes in the days after the fire
£63,000 for the six-week demolition project
Hoole Cllr Bob Thompson said there had been ‘no consultation’ for demolishing the building, which many had hoped would be refurbished and reused as something that would benefit the local community.
“I don’t believe it should have been knocked down. I am very disappointed they have knocked down another building without having any idea of what to do with it,” said Cllr Thompson, who has been calling for the site to be used to create a new safe cycle and pedestrian walkway next to Hoole Bridge since the fire.
“They are just looking at a short term use. It has taken a long time and they haven’t found anything to do with the site.
“The council is hoping, as ever, that something will turn up once the building has been demolished. That is why I think it has taken two years for something to be done.”
“This is a real opportunity to regenerate and bring a bit of class into the area, rather than build more brick flats.”
But CWaC spokesman Ian Callister defended the two-year wait for the demolition, saying it was necessary as the authority had to wait for building consent to be granted.
“The decision was taken we couldn’t refurbish for obvious cost reasons. The costs of restoring the building would have been prohibitive compared with what we would have got from the insurance.
“The site will be important in terms of the One City Plan and the business district. Once these plans come into fruition we will have a better idea what to do with the site.”
December 2, 2010: Firefighters battle massive blaze at Chester Enterprise Centre as flames tear through the building at 3.50am.
December 3, 2010: Part of the burnt-out site is demolished as it is deemed ‘too dangerous’
December, 16, 2010: A handful of business owners are allowed back into the building to try and recover belongings
December 23, 2010: Fire investigation reveals the building did not have smoke or heat detectors, sprinklers or an automatic fire alarm system
February, 2011: Many of the relocated businesses get back on their feet, with some using social networking to relaunch themselves
December 2, 2011: A year on and the council reveal the building will be demolished
February 2012: Network Rail fail to get permission for a car park on the site and The Civic Trust say the demolition is motivated by ‘short-term financial considerations’.
November 2012: Work finally starts demolishing the site