Council in asbestos site shock
Date published: 27 November 2009
At a meeting of the TBA Working Party this week, a frank admission was made by MMC Estates that “due to the current economic climate” the company was unable to fund any site investigation for contamination of the former Turner & Newall asbestos factory site.
A memo from Rochdale Council Head of Planning and Regulation, Peter Rowlinson, states he has sent a letter to the Homes and Communities Agency supporting MMC in their application for government funding.
MMC Estates have also employed two new members of staff, formerly of Countryside Properties PLC, who have experience in applying for government grant monies.
It has also been revealed that Rochdale Council may soon accept that at least part of the 72 acre former asbestos factory could fall under the legal definition of 'Contaminated Land' under the Environmental Protection Act. Rochdale Council is considering applying to DEFRA for public funding.
Speaking to Rochdale Online, Save Spodden Valley campaign co-ordinator Jason Addy said: “I am loathe to be critical of Rochdale Council but people are bound to ask many legitimate questions about this news.
“I have always been led to believe that a planning authority must be unbiased and unfettered in its approach to a planning application. There must be no hint of pre-determination. I don't know how this squares with a public claim by Rochdale Council's Head of Planning and Regulation that he wants to see a joint public/private housing project on the TBA site. To many this could appear to be a 'done deal'. In fairness it isn't and the approach to the HCA is the very start of a long process of investigating options. However, I struggle to see how this doesn't cross a line regarding the neutral administration of a planning process.
“For over five years, the Save Spodden Valley campaign has been clear that all the facts are needed to be known about the TBA site so that safe decisions can be made about its future. To start from the assumption that the site is suitable as a 'mixed use Urban Village' seems to pre-judge the issue.
“Could there then be a danger of policy-led evidence gathering?
“The past history of asbestos on this site has been a sorry tale of damage, deceit, obfuscation and cover-up. History should not be allowed to repeat itself.
“I have deep misgivings about the prospect of public money being used to gamble with a private venture to put homes on an asbestos factory. Does this create an open-ended liability for the taxpayer?
“As we told the Prime Minister earlier this year, we believe the most cost effective, common sense permanent solution would be a careful demolition and remediation of the site for 'soft-end' amenity use. That would be the cheapest option but not the most profitable. But given the past history of the site, what price do we put on the future risk of asbestos cancer?”
Councillor William Hobhouse, chairman of the working party, said: "The remit of the TBA Working Party is to protect the health and safety of the people of this borough in relation to asbestos at the TBA site.
"The Working Party does not scrutinise or discuss anything to do with the planning application.
"The shelving of a site testing and mapping programme is a worry. This is the only way we can understand where the asbestos is on the site, and in what quantities. By involving the Homes and Community Agency, we might bring in wider public scrutiny. However, since the Agency is particularly interested in facilitating sites for housing, their involvement might exclude other options for the end use for the site. No-one can make any assumptions about the future use or development of the site until we have the scientific data."
Have Your Say