October 13th, 2017
Homes On Contaminated Site
ELF has been assisting Somercoates Against Development Residents Action Group (SAD) in their campaign against plans for 200 houses on a site in Derbyshire with a 70-year history of contamination and adjacent to another former landfill site. Planning permission was initially refused and has now gone to appeal. The greenfield and contaminated site has been a rugby club for many years but a deal was done whereby the local rugby club got a new home, club house etc and their current site was to be built upon.
Back in June 2015, ELF was approached by Kellie Judson who lives very close to one of the sites, which is known to have serious past contamination, largely undocumented and of great concern to local people. Since then, as well as fundraising and organising local resistance, Kelly has been raising the profile of her matter.
On 20th June 2017 SAD’s matter was featured in the Radio 4 programme What Lies Beneath, the Legacy of Landfill and on 27th June a BBC news feature looked at Kellie’s case. SAD’s fight is part of a wider story about the question over building on contaminated land as the ever greater push for more house building and government targets are imposed on communities.
The site is a designated greenfield area which had been mined by opencast and quarried over many years. The resultant open pits were used to tip waste over several decades throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. The tips were operated legally during the day with permitted materials including asbestos, toxic metal compounds, mercury contaminated compounds and vanadium compounds.
Many of these compounds would now be considered dangerous and not be allowed to be placed in pits in an uncontained manner under current legislation.
Local residents also claim the tips were operated illegally at night and that materials tipped during this time may have included caesium 134, cobalt 60 and dioxin 237 and 238, strontium and uranium.
This development, the community were clear, posed a threat to local peoples’ health. This site was turned down for housing by the Secretary of State in 1991 and an adjacent site turned down for opencast mining by the Secretary of State in 1989. The reasons being the danger posed by insufficient knowledge of the hazardous waste particularly dioxins that are contained in the tips.
Last year two associated planning applications for the new rugby club and housing came before Amber Valley Borough Council (AVBC). The new site for the rugby club was approved. However, the application for 200 dwellings whilst being recommended by the planning officer was refused by the planning committee. AVBC took the decision back to the committee for “another go” but it was again refused. The planning decision notice specifies, “That the application be refused due to insufficient information available on this date”. This concerned the contamination and lack of available information. Many older local people with a very worrying story to tell about how the site was contaminated spoke at the committee stages.
The applicant appealed the decision to refuse and with ELF’s assistance SAD wrote to PINS (planning inspectorate) asking that this be a full inquiry as local people were a very important component in the decision making process. However, AVBC’s request for the appeal to be a one day hearing prevailed.
SAD of course still had a role to play so ELF looked for an ELF barrister to help. A new ELF member, Stanzie Bell at Kings Chambers agreed to assist, but in the first instance recommended that instead of a barrister the group needed a contamination expert. This proved sage advice and the group through Stanzie found Stephen Fryer to present a report at the hearing although SAD had to raise funds for this.
Preparing for the hearing Kellie commented,
“Thank you so much for your help over the past almost 3 years, you have made me strong at times when I felt like giving up…. At least we know about our landfills; how many communities are fighting development in their back yards who do not have a clue what they live next to? You have been instrumental in our fight and I can only thank you for that”
To the delight of SAD and local residents, the Inspector dismissed the appeal on 17th August 2017.
This was an interesting matter, and illustrates the importance that a well-placed expert can have on the outcome of a public enquiry. We would urge communities to take note. Where we are used to countless technical reports produced by applicant developers, in certain technical matters, there is a lot to be said for communities fundraising where necessary in order to produce their own.