A Bridge of Earn residential development is under threat of being demolished as a result of a breach of planning conditions.
Residents on the development, built by Maplewood Developments, have all received letters from Perth and Kinross Council advising them not to use their gardens whilst council officials prepare to investigate whether the properties are built on contaminated land.
The houses were constructed eight years ago on a former coal yard which was known to contain potentially harmful chemicals and asbestos.
When the planning application was approved (09/02039/FLL), the council inserted a condition relating to the investigation and clean-up of any contamination on the site to ensure the risk to human health and other sensitive receptors was minimised. After site inspection reports revealed elevated concentrations of hydrocarbons, chemicals and asbestos were present on the site, the council required remediation and subsequent verification to be undertaken before any residential unit be occupied. It has now transpired that one or both of these processes did not take place and David Gahan – the developer – has been served with a breach of condition notice. Mr Gahan has 12 weeks to demonstrate he decontaminated the site to a satisfactory standard as set by the Local Authority.
It would appear this isn’t the first instance of risk-taking by this developer. It has come to light that sufficient measures were not taken to prevent a person falling from scaffolding at another development site plus multiple other breaches of health and safety regulations.
What does this mean for the residents?
The residents have been warned not to let their children dig in the gardens, however, the worst case scenario is that these properties will be demolished. Adding to this concern the residents have been left in the dark regarding the future of their homes as a result of ongoing uncertainty.
Who will be responsible for this?
Fortunately, in this case, it is unlikely the residents would have to pay for the remediation of the site, if this is required. There are a variety of outcomes here, the first being the developer is found responsible for not cleaning up the site and therefore in direct breach of the planning approval. As a regulatory body, Perth and Kinross Council can order Mr Gahan to provide suitable remediation. However, if remediation was undertaken to some level and the council did not pursue the verification, the responsibility could fall to them for not fulfilling their duties as a regulator. In all of this, the perfect outcome for the residents would be for contamination to not be found and they can continue to occupy their houses without concern. However, if contamination is found they could face months of disruption or even lose their homes if demolition is required.
The importance of effective remediation
Back in 2013 another Scottish housing estate was investigated by Midlothian Council after a family were hospitalised with suspected carbon dioxide poisoning from a leak in a former coal mine. The developer Lovell insisted it followed instructions from the council’s design team, however it was discovered that protective gas membranes that should have been incorporated into the design were not putting resident’s lives at risk. At a cost of £12 million, 64 properties were demolished and are being rebuilt with effective gas defence systems.