Friday, 21 September 2012

Housing plans for former chemicals site sparks local Littleborough opposition

Plans to build 174 homes on the site of a former chemical works are causing concerns amongst Littleborough residents who fear it remains unfit for human habitation. 

One of them, a builder has questioned whether the proposed ground cover will be strong enough to prevent a surface break and the possible release of toxins.

Paint and coatings multinational Akzo Nobel ceased operations at its Hollingworth Lake location eight years ago. The site was sold three years later to Woodford Land Ltd whose plans for new houses, business units, a restaurant and hotel were wrecked by falling property prices.  

Countryside Properties(CP) has now received approval from Rochdale Borough Council to start construction. The company must purchase the land before going ahead.

Peter Evans, former Littleborough Lakeside councillor, claims former Akzo Nobel (AN) employees “have openly alleged that AN deposited chemicals down the underground former coal mining shafts and also left behind buried drums on the site.” 

An AN spokesperson said they had no remaining liability at Littleborough and had undertaken remedial work in all but the ‘island site.’ Rochdale Council has identified this as being ‘historically used by AN for tipping waste materials until it was partially capped in 1970 and later landscaped.’ According to the Council the remedial works undertaken by Woodford included the former waste area.

The Akzo Nobel spokesperson did however confirm “it was possible that drums had been buried on the Littleborough site many years ago. If there are any still there thenthey do not pose a risk as the site has been cleaned.” 

Any chemicals poured down the mining shafts he said had also been removed before the company departed. 

Despite these assurances a local builder, who did not wish to be named, said: “I am concerned the plans are for 200 mm of crushed stone and 600 mm of top soil to be used to cover a potentially dangerous site. I believe there should be a two metre covering of clay, which will cost a lot more but will prevent surface breaking.”

The lack of a complete map of the underground workings has also raised concerns. Evans believes the council is willing to overlook regulations requiring a minimum cover over any cavity of ten times its depth. Evans and Barry Cropper, a magistrate and local resident, fear there may be a major underground fall and they want a more extensive survey undertaken before the housing building programme commences.
Rochdale Council’s spokeperson said: “The majority of UK mine workings are not recorded and it is common to redevelop former colliery sites.”

Rochdale councillors having agreed to support the plans and the way is clear for Countryside Properties to build the new houses in the next three years.

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