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Controversial houses expected to be approved near 'toxic tip' in Somercotes

Monday, December 2nd, 2019 11:37am

By Eddie Bisknell- Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Plans for 180 houses next to an historic Derbyshire toxic tip fraught with controversy and mystery are set for approval.

Housing giant Gladman is behind the plans for land off Stanley Street, owned by the Diocese of Derby, in Somercotes.

If approved, the homes would sit next to a former toxic tip, known as LS01, which was at the centre of a Local Democracy Reporting Service investigation earlier this year.

The tip itself is thought to contain a raft of cancerous, radioactive and other deadly chemicals – dumped at a time when there was little to no regulation of the disposal of harmful waste.

Amber Valley Borough Council planning officers have recommended that the plans are approved at a meeting on Monday, December 9.

The council confirmed in comments made to the developer that thousands of tonnes of toxic materials were dumped in the tip from 1948 until the 1970s completely unchecked.

During this 24-year period, the council said “local authorities had no information on the wastes being deposited on site”.

Licensed tipping took place later on the site.

The borough council confirmed that from 1977, LS01 was licensed for the dumping of “special waste”, including mercury compounds and vanadium pentoxide – a known carcinogen.

Local residents claim license conditions were frequently breached.

Residents and national and local elected officials have raised serious concerns about the site over the years.

An intensive ground investigation carried out by environmental consultant group RSK on behalf of Gladman, recommends that the 180 homes should be built on “suspended ground floors” due to a raft of underground hazards found on the site.

This includes possible “volatile organic compounds” leaching into the site from the former tip and also risks associated with the site’s previous coal mining history.

Recommending approval, the council’s report says: “Fundamentally, this is a greenfield site, and for such a site the scientific officer would not normally expect extensive investigations to be carried out prior to determination of an outline application, however the potential impact of nearby historic landfill and historic mining in the area need to be investigated further and as such the scientific officer recommended that the applicant commission further works.

“Overall the scientific officer is satisfied with the investigations carried out to date, but further investigations are required to further refine the conceptual site model and to confirm the initial findings that there is a low/minimal risk to identified receptors.

“If this work were to identify that remediation is required to address any risk, then an appropriate remediation strategy would have to be developed.

“Based on the initial findings, the scientific officer considers it unlikely that risks will be identified that cannot be addressed through appropriate remediation.

“Conditions attached to the planning application will ensure that this is carried out prior to development and are considered to be appropriate for a situation such as this.”

Regarding the “volatile organic compounds” found on the site, the council’s scientific officer confirms “it is likely that the source of the VOC is the waste deposited in the LS01 landfill”.

Of the 180 homes, 54 would be affordable housing.

The council is to ask the developer to pay £950,000 towards the creation of extra school places at Swanwick Hall.

In total, 21 objection letters were received by residents near the site.

One resident said: “It is well known that the surrounding area has significant contamination issues from illegal dumping that took place. The Council has a duty of care to local people – you cannot guarantee it will be free from contamination.”

Another objection says: “Previously a major house builder undertook soil tests and the reports came back as too risky and expensive to make safe. Where are the reports of this? They should be in the public realm.”

A further objector said: “Concerned about the disturbance of land during construction and people coming into contact with all sorts of contaminants.”

Another objecting resident said: “The residents of Somercotes and Pye Bridge need to be assured that the investigations undertaken in all proposed development sites in the area are conducted to a level of honest competence and that the findings are reviewed by competent people – the health and safety of people living locally depend on it.”

Meanwhile, a further objector said: “We need good quality housing in Somercotes but not at the cost of our community’s health and well-being.”

Alongside this are concerns about the traffic impact of the housing: “The development will add to an already overloaded Stanley Street which is not wide enough to cope with buses and emergency services vehicles. The bus mounts the footpath travelling right up to the front doors of terraced properties, making it extremely dangerous.”

Cllr John McCabe, the ward member for the borough council, says that the land is contaminated, the B600 cannot take any more traffic, that this is the “last bit of open land in Somercotes without planning permission” and he questions why another developer pulled their plans for the site several years ago after carrying out a site inspection.

Taylor Wimpey had commissioned RSK to inspect the site from 2014 to 2015, after which the developer dropped its plans.

Neither RSK, Taylor Wimpey or the Diocese of Derby will release that inspection report.

The 475-page RSK report on the site, dissected by the LDRS earlier this year, had said: “Unacceptable risks to future site residents have not been identified and previously identified contaminant linkages are not considered complete.

“RSK considers the proposed development highly unlikely to result in an increased risk of migration of any off-site sources of contamination – i.e. those contaminants associated with the two closest historic landfill sites.”

However, it also said that toxic dioxins and furans – cancer-causing chemicals used in industrial processes – have also been found on the site.

The firm said: “The extent of these contaminants across the site remains unknown.”

It had also said that dangerous gases and groundwater can travel through mine systems – and that an extensive former mine system had been found under the site. If these gases rise they can become trapped in confined areas – which is where they can pose a risk of asphyxiation and explosion, RSK said.

It also said “significant potential sources of ground gas generation have been identified associated with the off-site landfill site” (LS01).

Throughout the Stanley Street report, RSK has also consistently reminded the developers that homes should not be built over mine shafts or within the vicinity of shafts.

RSK was able to find a number of mine shafts on the site, but could not find information to mark the locations of all of the potential shafts.

The firm says: “Collapse or subsidence from mine workings beneath the site would pose major health and safety risks for proposed end users and construction workers.”

It says: “Potential risks may arise should noxious or explosive mine gases impact on the construction phase and final development.”

The Coal Authority has said that the mine workings must be filled and capped before construction starts.

As part of the investigation RSK also confirmed that the borough council had “received claims” that radioactive caesium 133, cobalt 60, carbon 14, strontium 90 and uranium 234 had been dumped at the former landfill.

Amber Valley also confirmed to RSK that “tipping material from Coalite” had been approved by the county council at the former landfill.

It is alleged that this material included what is described as “the most toxic dioxin of all” by the United States Environmental Protection Agency – 2,3,7,8-tetrachloro-p-dibenzo-dioxin.

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