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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 09:26 GMT
Flats evacuated amid safety fears
Caspar Apartments, Leeds
The flats were assembled in a factory and put together on site
A pioneering block of flats in Leeds city centre has been evacuated amid fears it could collapse in high winds.

The 46 tenants of Caspar Apartments in North Street, built in 2000, must leave by 14 January. Most have already gone.

The block was built for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to provide affordable homes for single people, using a pre-assembled flat-pack design.

But a report by engineering firm Arup said the design left it vulnerable in bad weather and major work was needed.

Japanese construction company Kajima built the 46 single people's flats using prefabricated apartments assembled in a factory and then put into place by cranes on site.

A spokesman for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: "Although a well received development and very popular in other respects, the innovative method of construction for this development is creating serious difficulties.

The wider lesson we have learnt...is that it does not pay to be too ambitious in pioneering modern methods of construction
Joseph Rowntree Foundation statement

"This form of construction was very much at the cutting edge of new techniques and the results have been very disappointing indeed.

"We are, therefore, arranging for everyone to move out and will be paying them compensation accordingly.

"We are very upset at the inconvenience and concern these problems are causing to residents and to ourselves but recognise that the builders are taking their responsibilities seriously.

"The wider lesson we have learnt from this experience is that it does not pay to be too ambitious in pioneering modern methods of construction which are now becoming more fashionable."

A spokesman for Kajima stressed that the engineers' report had advised them there was no imminent danger at the site.

"We are working in close partnership with Joseph Rowntree and we have assured them that we are fully committed to finding the best possible solution in the shortest possible time," he said.

"There are some difficulties with the scheme, the nature of which we will fully investigate once the flats are empty, in order to lessen any impact and disruption to residents."

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