A mum who is desperate to leave the house in which her two-year-old daughter died has been left stuck due to a row over new-builds. Stacy-Marie Nicklin is one of several people stuck in a stand-off about a footpath and a hole in the ground.
She has been waiting since October to move out. Stacy wants to move away from the place where her daughter Harper-Lee Fanthorpe swallowed a button battery in May 2021, causing her death.
She is ready to move into one of five new-builds and has been ready to do so on several occasions - spending money on removal companies and taking unpaid days off work - but the move has been called off every time.
StokeonTrentLive has learned that the reason behind the delays is a stand-off over a trench where the utilities connections go. The issue is putting a lot of stress on Stacy, 37, as well as her daughters Kylie, 14, and Jamie-Leigh, 19. She said there were also several other families in a similar situation.
Stacy said: “After Harper died, I tried but just couldn’t carry on living here, because of all the painful memories. This living room is where Harper was bleeding from the mouth as the battery burned her insides. I couldn’t take being here again on her birthday or at Christmas, so we looked for somewhere new.
“We were all set to move months ago, and then just as we were about to go they’d tell us it had been delayed because of something to do with the electrics. But every time I went past the house, there was no sign of any work being done. In the meantime, we were living out of boxes and I was having to take days off work, only to be let down at the last minute.”
In September last year, Staffs Housing, which is the housing association behind the scheme, had told Stacy it was hopeful the tenancies could begin in October, 2022. Then, in later messages, it warned that there were “a few bits that needed to be completed” and said the handover date might be December 2.
But on December 1 a problem arose around one piece of work still outstanding, and left everything up in the air. SAS Associates, which was due to complete the electrical connections, says it was told by the city council that a complaint had been made about the length of the pedestrian diversion - which it says the council had previously approved.
The contractor says it said it would make relevant changes - including replacing signs that had apparently been stolen - but was told the “change to traffic management” couldn’t be approved until January. The works were closed down and the hole filled. And SAS says that its revised bill for opening up the hole, making the changes to diversion, and finishing the work, was rejected by the developer, Arthur Roberts & Sons Ltd.
A spokesman for Kamar Developments, the sub-contractors on site, said: “We want people to be in there, as soon as possible because I want to be out, I want the job finished. I can assure you we’ve done our utmost to get this sorted, but it’s the independent connections provider, SAS Utilities. They’ve turned around and said ‘We’re not coming back until you’ve paid this variation in full,’ which obviously at the moment I’m not prepared to do.
“Don’t get me wrong, the houses are done, they’re finished. But the problem is we can't get the completion certificates sorted because I can’t do the inspection and testing until the electricity is connected.”
The Kamar Developments spokesman said the bill received from SAS is to the tune of £16,000. SAS said the initial sum for the final connection work had been set back in September at £9,000 as long as there were no variations. But it says the extra work as a result of the complaint in December means that the job has changed, and “under our terms and conditions works cannot be undertaken until variations are agreed”.
Work has now stopped. And Stacy says she can’t move on with her life, adding: “I would just beg them all to sort this out. We can’t expect them to have known the impact this is having, but it’s just dragging our nightmares out for longer and longer. We’re so desperate to move and get out of this house, we’d dig the hole ourselves if we needed to.”
StokeonTrentLive has been told by the city council - which manages the housing waiting list - that it is in touch with Staffs Housing over Stacy’s move.
Tim Sheail, Director of Housing Services at Staffs Housing, said he had every sympathy with Stacy and the other families affected, adding: “Dividy Road is a new development of five houses which are being built by an independent contractor. The project has been significantly delayed because of problems with utility connections which are beyond our direct control.
“We really sympathise with Stacy and the other residents who were due to move into their new homes last year. We understand how frustrating the delays are and realise how difficult this has been. Our Housing Team has been in regular contact with all future residents and we will continue to do all we can to support them.”