THE extent of structural damage at the chapel in Prospect Hill has been exposed in new images taken from the inside of the building.
Community group Swindon Back Garden’s secretary Peter Green captured the widening cracks inside the Rehoboth Strict Baptist Chapel on Monday.
The chapel, which was built in 1882, has been closed for more than three weeks after it was deemed unsafe following excavation work on the Regent Circus development.
The images show cracks more than one inch wide in some places and, as the long-term future of the structure hangs in the balance, a meeting for all stakeholders has been arranged to discuss the impact of the development work.
On March 7 at 7pm in the chamber at Swindon Council, Robert Buckland, the MP for South Swindon, will chair a meeting of residents and businesses from the streets which surround the chapel, as well as developers and contractors involved at Regent Circus.
Letters have been sent out by the MP in an effort galvanise all of those with an interest the development and how it will affect nearby buildings.
Peter said: “Cross Street, Rolleston Street and Prospect Hill people need to look at this, not just the chapel.
“Cross Street Garage, Hillier Funeral Service in Victoria Road and Lloyds Pharmacy could all be affected by the work.”
Peter also spoke of his shock when he discovered the cracks creeping up the side of the interior of the chapel, when he was passing by and saw the door ajar with Richard Cooke, the deacon, inside.
“I walked in and when I saw the cracks I swore, which is not what we do in a chapel. But they are incredible,” he said.
“From what I have been told, the builder ISG is doing everything it should do, but doing it slowly.
“Richard’s worried it’s going to fall over in between reporting it and having repairs done.”
There are hopes among the Back Garden group some common ground can be found between residents, businesses and developers, with a clear understanding of liability as the development progresses.
“We want to be constructive. I hope it’s not going to be a group of people shouting at the developer,” said Peter. “I am looking for better communication from the contractor, not just with the legal people with the community.
“We are all pleased with the development, but we don’t want houses falling down.
“Rumours are spreading around the locals of what might happen to their properties – we just want to replace rumours with facts.”
Robert Buckland said: “The first thing is to establish responsibility for what has been happening, which might require an expert.
“If that can be done, the appropriate remedies can be found. I know it’s difficult when there’s a question of liability, but it’s important we try to find a way forward so that residents are not kept in the dark.”
A spokesman for ISG said: “ISG has always been completely transparent in talking with residents concerned about our projects.
“I’m sure if the letter is received and it details the offer of a meeting we will consider that. We have always looked to help with the communities where we work and talked with local neighbours.”