As work on Constantine House, Wisbech, nears completion Fenland Council admits: ‘We seem to have lost the owner’

Constantine house, Wisbech. Picture: Steve Williams.

Constantine house, Wisbech. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Fenland District Council – faced with a public outcry over the restoration of Constantine House in Wisbech – admitted to MP Steve Barclay they had ‘lost’ the owner.

Constantine house, Wisbech. Picture: Steve Williams.

Constantine house, Wisbech. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Following an extraordinary round of e-mails and phone calls, the MP for NE Cambs admitted last night: “It appears the council has lost the owner.”

A barrage of questions from councillors, residents and the MP have all wanted to know why work stopped on the Nene Parade block of flats and shops despite Fenland Council previously boasting of its success in getting work to start.

Enforcement action prompted the owner to begin restoration but council chief executive Paul Medd conceded they had, of late, been unable to contact the owner.

Mr Medd told the MP: “In relation to the council’s attempts to contact the owner of Constantine House, I can inform you that despite trying all possible avenues, this has not been possible at this time.

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“The council now intends to step up its work to ensure the owner fulfil his obligations as set out within the Section 215 notice.”

Mr Barclay said it was extremely frustrating and added the council had also failed to update fully a spreadsheet it had produced on the district’s other derelict buildings last May, despite numerous requests from his office.

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He said: “News the owner of Constantine House can now not be contacted and the apparent lack of progress with the spread sheet raises some serious questions which Mr Gary Garford (Fenland’s corporate director) needs to answer.”

Deadline for completion of the work on Constantine House, set out in a Section 215 order, was originally March, but the owner was granted an extension and it should have been completed by the end of June.

Work halted on the site before Easter and the workers have not been on the site for at least three months.

Cllr Virginia Bucknor told Mr Medd: “I regularly attend the High Street project meetings and this is moving along very well.

“But for the rest of the dilapidated buildings in Wisbech and Fenland, getting up to date clear information on what is/not happening and any plans going forward is challenging.

“There is nothing in this month’s council report except the expired deadline for Constantine House.

“As you can tell, I’m utterly frustrated with the lack of pro-activity and clear information. It may be that we are just too resource-stretched in FDC to tackle this.

“If that’s the case, let’s be told what the problems are and be open and transparent about it.”

Earlier this month council updated members explained how they had worked “closely” with Constantine House owners to “realise a high quality redevelopment securing visual improvement to Wisbech”.

A Council spokesman said 75 per cent of work before it halted in May.

Councillor David Oliver, portfolio holder responsible for conservation, said: “The Council is anxious to ensure that the building is watertight and pigeon nesting prevented to stop any future damage.

“We continue to make every effort to force the owner to comply fully with the Section 215 Notice, and are now considering all the options available to us to get the necessary works completed, including potential legal action.”

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