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Levitt Bernstein's Caspar scheme to be demolished - images

Levitt Bernstein's troubled pre-fab Caspar housing scheme in Leeds, which has sat empty since being evacuated after high winds in 2005, is to be demolished.

Built less than seven years ago (AJ 10.08.00), the 'pioneering' 46-home development for the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust has been riddled with difficulties including 'potentially catastrophic structural problems.'

An investigation by Arup revealed an 'identifiable chance' the £3 million, timber-framed building could collapse in strong winds - a warning which has meant none of the tenants have ever been allowed back into the Kajima-built flats.

When it was first opened the building was hailed by John Prescott as an exemplar of affordable housing. The name itself, Caspar, is short for City-centre Apartments for Single People at Affordable Rents.

Yet the development never lived up to its billing and a new landowner, with new ideas for the plot in North Street, has now burst onto the scene.

Ironically the replacement scheme, which has been drawn up by Leeds-based practice Architecture 2B for developer LifeHomes, is also understood to be a 'modular' pre-fabrication design.

However, the latest proposals for the tricky, curved site are expected to be constructed with a steel frame.

Nick Brown, director of Architecture 2B, said: 'There are a lot of positives about the principles of the building - such as the modular construction - and our scheme draws on those.

'However we are looking to put our own stamp on the site.'

In a statement, Levitt Bernstein said: 'We are saddened to learn of the intended demolition of the Caspar project, due to matters unconnected with our practice. This was a pioneering project which won a number of awards for Levitt Bernstein and which we remain proud of.

'The principle of off-site volumetric manufacture still remains valuable in the housing sector. We understand that the intended redevelopment will retain the values of the original project, which obviously we support.'

by Richard Waite

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