Shop collapse fears spark Longton town centre traffic chaos
NEIGHBOURS feared an entire building was falling down after they heard a loud noise then noticed a crack had suddenly appeared in the side of the property.
Now an investigation is underway into what caused part of the inside of the empty shop in Market Street, Longton, to collapse, leaving the crack on the outside.
Police and Stoke-on-Trent City Council staff were called to the building, next door to Specsavers, shortly after noon yesterday. They sealed off the site and initially closed the road, leading to traffic chaos.
A structural engineer was also at the scene as Kier Stoke workers installed scaffolding. They used timber and safety guards to catch any falling bricks or slate from the roof.
A council spokesman said: "Parts of the inside of the three-storey building had collapsed, and our dangerous structures team put up a temporary catchment scaffold to make the building safe.
"If the front elevation of the building fails, it will fall in a controlled manner in a contained area. The rear elevation of the building is secure.
"Boards were put up around the scaffolding to form a shield and part of Market Street had to be closed off during the afternoon."
A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: "We were alerted to an unsafe building at 12.20pm. It related to a void property in Market Street.
"It would appear some work has been carried out there.
"A road closure was requested and the road and footpath were closed. The one-way system on Market Street was reduced to one lane and vehicles were diverted along Anchor Road."
Receptionist Hannah Machin, aged 20, from Longton, works at The Specs Place, in Market Street, just a few yards away.
She said: "It all started at around 12 noon. There was a crack in the side of the building, which was reported. The council workers and police came down and closed the road.
"They had to put scaffolding up to stop it falling down. But if it had fallen, it would have fallen on Specsavers, because the crack was very close to their building.
"People have turned up for appointments, but customers have told us they have had to park quite far away and walk in.
"Some of our customers are in their 70s and 80s and they couldn't get anywhere near."
Optician Phil Saum, aged 37, from Leek, who also works at The Specs Place, said: "It was quite a visible crack, to the top of the building on the right hand side as you look at it, close to Specsavers."
Many traders in Market Street said passing trade had dropped as a result of the road closure.
Christine Ratcliffe, a volunteer key holder for the Scope charity shop, in Market Street, said: "It's a building which is not safe. Trade has been a bit slow since the road was closed. There's been lots of queuing traffic."
Richard Cresswell, chairman of Longton Chamber of Trade and owner of engineering and ironmongery products firm RD Cresswell and Co, said yesterday's incident had led to 'traffic mayhem' in the area.
He added: "People were working on the building not long ago.
"A lot of those properties are not safe anyway. They want knocking down, not renovating.
"Some are in a dreadful state.
"It is where our old building was and that was leaning in the 1950s. It has deteriorated since then."