‘He’s a brick short of a load’: Neighbors’ nightmare living next to building site where barefoot workers lives were put at risk


Those living next to a Tameside building site where a man wanting to build himself a new family home and allowed workers to dig barefoot have spoken of their ‘nightmare.’

Mustapha Matib was not a builder but took it upon himself to act as principal contractor for the project to build the new home, which he intended to live in afterwards. But shocking pictures from the site showed workers with no shoes or socks working on the rubble-filled site.

Workers on the site, on a plot of land neighboring a number of bungalows on a housing estate in the Haughton Green area of ​​Denton, were also captured leaning over a huge hole estimated to be around seven-feet deep. Locals said they understood was to become a swimming pool.

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The botched excavation work has now left one property on Gilbraltar Lane, close to the Haughton Dale Nature Reserve in the Tame Valley, ‘unstable’, said the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Matib was successfully prosecuted by HSE and was handed a suspended prison term at Manchester Magistrates Court.



Workers with no safety equipment were photographed leaning over a huge hole while laying the foundations

Today, those living nearby spoke of their anger and frustration at what had been happening at the site following the granting of planning permission several years ago. One man, Ernie Lamb, said it had been ‘a nightmare’.

The 77-year-old said: “We’ve been here for two and a half years and it’s been going on since before then. It’s been going on for up to four to five years I believe. It’s just gone on and on and on, and it’s caused a lot of upset round here.

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“I saw them working barefoot, everyone did! They were blaring loud music as well and we just couldn’t believe what we were seeing really. We kept asking how are they getting around that ground, because, as you can see it’s rough down there.

“The whole idea was that it had a swimming pool and they dug it out and breeze blocked it. But it rained pretty solidly and it just filled with water. It must have been six or seven-foot deep.



Mustapha Matib was handed a suspended prison term for supervising the unsafe work

“It also just had a really flimsy sort of wire mesh fence initially and this area is chocka with kids and people with dogs going down to the river in the valley and they were worried kids might get in and start playing in there. So I believe someone complained about that.

“Three different times, three different people came in with JCBs to dig and started digging. And the drivers were saying to us ‘I don’t think he has any idea what he’s doing, he’s just telling us ‘dig this, dig that. ‘ I don’t think a suspended sentence and a fine will mean much to him really.”

John Hulme, 59, agreed. He said the work had been ‘going on for years’.

“It’s just been an eyesore and a consistent mess. They dug a massive hole which we think was meant to be the swimming pool and it just flooded. The last time I saw people working on there was probably when they had a cabin put in last April.

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“When we did see people working on there they had no shoes, no boots, no protective equipment. It just saddened me really as they were just young lads and they weren’t being properly protected.



The site as it looks today. A neighboring property has been left unstable the HSE say

“It was an accident waiting to happen really. And I just don’t understand it or see the point. I can’t imagine how much they have spent on it. So either build it, and do it properly, or sell it. That’s how we see it.

“You do obviously worry when such sub-standard work is being done on your doorstep. We weren’t too worried about our home but at other parts around it, fences have basically collapsed.

“And if I was the person who lived next door I’d be very worried about my foundations. It’s just been really frustrating for everyone. And who knows when it will get sorted as it’s still an eyesore.”

On the sentence, he said: “I don’t like to see people going to prison. The prisons are full as it is, and him going to jail wouldn’t solve anything so I think unpaid work probably is the most appropriate punishment. “

John’s wife Sue, also 59 said: “He’s a brick short of a load if he doesn’t know how what people round there think of how he’s behaved over it. I don’t think the sentence is strong enough.”

Shirley Hoyland, 57, said: “We’ve not been as affected as others as we have only been here under two years and we don’t directly overlook it. But you see lots of people coming and going, and they blatantly didn’ t have the right gear or kit. It was shocking and pretty worrying, yeah.”

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The HSE said the site was initially not adequately secured

The HSE said they carried out an inspection in August 2020 after neighbors raised ‘significant concerns’ over the work. A subsequent investigation found Matib had employed several groundworkers to excavate land ahead of the building of the new house.

However, he had failed to prepare risk assessments and method statements detailing how the work would be safely carried out, failed to appoint a site manager with suitable skills, knowledge and experience and failed to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the workers they said. .

A large, deep and unprotected excavation was found, meaning there was a “foreseeable fall risk.” In addition, excavations were not shored or suitably battered back to prevent the risk of collapse they added. Ultimately the work “put workers in danger and rendered the neighboring property unstable”, the HSE said.

Matib, of Allerton Road, Bradford, pleaded guilty to two charges under the Health & Safety at Work Act. He was sentenced to sixteen weeks imprisonment suspended for twelve months, ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work and pay costs of £5,673.

Speaking after the hearing, Inspector Phil Redman said: “Inspectors will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against duty holders who fall below the required standards and put lives at risk.”




www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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