Homes on 'contaminated' land not supported

PROPOSALS to build 18 new affordable town centre flats on contaminated land at a derelict gasworks have not been backed by town planners.

PROPOSALS to build 18 new 'affordable' town centre flats on contaminated land at a derelict gasworks have not been backed by town planners.

Eagle One Ltd wants to renew planning permission and build seven one bedroom and eleven two bedroom flats at the former Gas Depot in Fore Street.

Previous approval in 2007 rubberstamped three one-bedroom and 15 two bedroom flats.

If backed by district planners this time round the project will fulfil Eagle One's social housing obligations following their developments at the Marina.

But an environmental study in 2006 by Ruddlesden Geotechnical Ltd says traces of arsenic, nickel and benzoapyrene were found in the soil.

The report says the levels are potentially harmful if the land is used for growing vegetables:

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"The risk assessments have shown that, left unremitted, the levels of contamination in the ground could potentially be harmful to human health for residential end-use."

But they added the problems could be overcome with a layer of clean top soil and a 'geotextile' membrane separated the clean top soil with the contaminated sub-soil.

The report continues: "In garden areas a depth of 750mm of inert subsoil and topsoil is considered sufficient to reduce exposure..."

Cllr Steve Gazzard said: "I have real problems with this...

"My main concern is that the footprint is too large - it is overdevelopment for such a small site.

"They look like Lego buildings and do not fit the area.

"At a time when more people want to grow more of their own produce if there are gardens' they won't be able to grow their own vegetables."

Cllr Ian Stewart said: "These plans are as incongruous as building a bowling alley on the seafront.

"It's a moral dilemma - we want affordable homes but they could be an eyesore.

"I don't want to sound over the top but will we be regretting this in year's to come when scientific advice has changed?"

In a letter to the council Chris Fayers of Eagle One said: "This site...has been purchased by Eagle One in order to fulfil (social housing) obligations in connection with the development of the final phase at the docks at Exmouth.

"It will provide a significant contribution to the affordable housing stock in Exmouth."

The plans will now be considered by district planners.

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