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Monday, 27 March, 2000, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Blighted. Your comments
These are your comments on Blighted. Panorama 20.3.00

I agree with others who have left comments that one of the more worrying issues raised by the programme is that surrounding the respective roles of the EA, local authorities and central government in dealing with planning on potentially contaminated sites. It is in fact both saddening and worrying that in a developed country there is such confusion over the safeguards against planning in unsuitable locations and how / by whom these safeguards should be enforced. If the danger is to be avoided that the wrong balance occurs between taking the time and the trouble to properly research a potential site and carry out any remedial work needed on the one hand and of doing the expedient thing in the interests of faster and easier financial returns on the other then it is clear that effective mechanisms have to be in place in the hands of competent and empowered agencies or authorities. It would not be the first time that a situation exists where this kind of confusion exists over the role and effectiveness of regulators vis-a-vis the industry which they are supposed to regulate, take a look at the train industry or the BSE fiasco if you want other obvious examples, but I just hope people will eventually start getting the message and refuse to be put up with any more.
Jean-Mark Dupoux

Whilst ICI are saying that they will not demolish the houses in Weston Village, maybe your reporters should have seen what they did to our village, Clifton, after a "Them & Us "programme. ICI bought all the houses along the road about which there were complaints of traffic movements, and then started to demolish them. As a result we now only have 19 houses in Clifton instead of 35. I have no doubt that in the future ICI will buy all the affected houses in Weston and demolish them as well. We have asked ICI if there is any risks from Clifton lagoons, which were being dumped on during and after the period when HCBD was being dumped in Weston Quarries. So far, we have had no answers. Peter Rowley Chair, Clifton Village Residents Association
Peter Rowley
Clifton, Runcorn

The program implied that home-buyers at Enfield Lock had been mislead about the possible contamination of the land due to its former use. However, when I bought my property there in April last year there were notices and literature explaining that remediation work had been carried out to correct any low-level contamination. The concerns raised by the Enfield Lock Action Group are not shared by many of the home-owners who actually live on the site. If Panorama had investigated further they might have discovered that there are other motives behind the campaign against the development at Enfield Island Village. Would people actually prefer new houses to be built on 'greenfield' land?
Jo Skelton
Enfield Lock

I think showing my house at Schooners Reach on national television after I had specifically asked Mr Lomax not to is an invasion of my privacy. Whilst I understand that the programme needs to illustrate its points, this should not be done at the expense of others. This is private property ,maintained at the expense of the residents, who with the exception of one, had clearly indicated that they did not wish their properties to be shown in this light. The site is not contaminated as proven by 3 independent reports, a fact you conveniently omitted thereby causing unnecessary distress to innocent residents whose only crime was to buy a house.
Anthony Laurent

I would like to thank Panorama for showing us the problems that people are facing living on areas of contaminated land. ICI's apology to the people of Weston Village, who now have to live with this contamination, lasted minutes however the legacy left will last generations. The programme was called 'BLIGHTED' but the powers that be have decided that the neighbouring village of Weston Point is not blighted. We have had a handful of verbal reassurances from ICI's helpline that we have nothing to worry about in Weston Point. However they have also stated that they do not intend to extend their borehole testing programme to Weston Point. Verbal reassurances are not enough and we want scientific proof that our village is not contaminated, as do the potential future property owners if we are to continue to be thriving community. What will happen when ICI have sold of the factories and the winds have changed? Will we be left in the rain like the employees?

One has to wonder whether it is worth watching any programmes in the Panorama series anymore. I live on Enfield Island Village and have done for nearly two years. The issues raised have been known for at least that long and the Enfield Lock Action Group are merely using Panorama as the latest springboard to air their grievances against a derelict, run down ex-MOD site into somewhere pleasant and peaceful for people to live. The ELAG are more concerned with the fact that they have had to put up with construction work on their back doorsteps than the health of the residents. Surely before the clay capping was installed their was a greater risk of seepage into the environment - Why were they not pressing for remediation work immediately after the site was closed down? This one-sided argument that Panorama has shown is completely biased and geared towards sensationalism to generate viewing figures at the potential cost of those living here.
Enfield Island Village

I watched the programme with interest having been born in Runcorn and living there for the first 27 years of my life. My father worked at ICI and his family home was in Weston Point, practically outside the gates of the works. He can recall caustic soda being dumped in the quarries and recalls how the builders of Liverpool Cathedral had to find a new source of sandstone when one quarry failed and ruined the one that was in active use. I cannot remember any talk about this during my youth and my uncle who was the local councillor for Weston & Weston Point never mentioned anything about dumping although I know that he was informed if there was a gas leak in the factory. How glad I am now that I have moved to a greener area nut who knows what is lurking under my house!
Katherine Woods
Leominster, Herefordshire

As someone who develops affordable housing on brownfield sites, mainly in London I thought that "Blighted" was a very poor piece of journalism. You, as journalists have no idea what it is like to have to deal with some local Councils. They often don't understand their responsibilities re contaminated land and they are so slow dead lice could crawl on them!. It come as no surprise that Barratts ( not my favourite developer )ended up selling the homes before all the paperwork was agreed. Even so you made no mention of the "Hazard-Pathway-Target" methodology in assessing contaminated sites. We need 60% of new homes on such sites and scaremongering like that programme is a major step in the wrong direction. Please, do better next time. Mark Hanson
Mark Hanson

I feel that the journalistic approach used during the construction of tonight Panorama programme over dramatised the issues surrounding contaminated land within the UK. Obviously everyone empathises with people who have to deal with contamination of the scale of that seen in Runcorn, and surrounding areas and believe that action needs to be taken to rectify / compensate those effected. However, the problems created by construction of properties on contaminated land cannot be wholly squared at the house builders or those within regulatory bodies or consultancies. It has long been recognised that the government of this country will not adopt suitable guidelines to control the usage of so called brownfield sites, even the term "brownfield" is open to interpretation such is it's non-specific legal definition. The programme concentrated on the Environment Agencies short comings in controlling construction on so called "poisoned sites", when it is not even their remit to do so. Under current planning guidance contamination is dealt with by the local planning authorities (are they really qualified to do this?). Even though constructors may bend the rules on occasions there really isn't a regulatory body which has the powers to do anything about it. Nor is there the legislation to compare remediation or their designs to, especially if the contamination is within the soil and not mobilised to a local controlled water course. In conclusion the government needs to provide a suitable framework of legislation able to control the environmental industry, and provide a regulatory body with sufficient powers to police remediation operations and validate results satisfactorily. This would eventually change public perception and the profile of such sites. This would embrace Mr Prescott's target for sustainable development.
Mark Wintringham
Sutton Coldfield

Congratulations on your expose of "Barratts" on last nights Panorama. 22000 people signed a petition in Dudley to retain as a sporting venue,the Dudley Wood Stadium which ran Speedway racing until 5 years ago, before being forced out by Barratts, and money grabbing land owners. This land has been proved to be contaminated, it has deep mine shafts, and is overlooked by a large and extremely noisy, Drop Forge, yet, despite an official Inquiry, the efforts of Dudley Council and the wishes of the general public, they still are dogmatic, and refuse to discuss the matter with any party. This land is totally unsuitable for housing, and yet they still maintain housing will go on the land, at whatever cost. I would certainly not purchase a new property from Barratts, in my opinion, and that of thousands of others in the Black Country, they are despicable, with no social awareness, only contempt at the general public, and those whose future health they put at risk, when purchasing one of their properties, on land which has been officially declared as contaminated.
Melvin England
Solihull, Birmingham

My family and I live in Runcorn, not in Weston but in Weston Point. Weston Point is linked to Weston by a short road but we are closer to the factory than Weston village. We have been excluded from all discussions with ICI and the only news we receive is from the school gate gossips. I watched your program last night with great interest as I understand that you interviewed a family from Weston Point, I was disappointed to find that they did not get any air time devoted to their (and our) communities story. Was this because ICI got a court injunction stopping you from mentioning Weston Point's issues, our fears and our worries. This court injunction is the story at the school gates this morning. I would be very interested to know if it's true. If it is, we in our community have to look at ICI in a new light. What are they hiding from us ?
Ian Stockton
Weston Point Runcorn

A note from Panorama:
Panorama can confirm that ICI did not seek or obtain a court injunction against our programme. They co-operated with the programme over a number of weeks.

ICI have emailed us the following statement for this website: "We intend to share the results of our test programme with the community openly and will take responsibility for handling in a proper way any consequences we discover as a result of historic disposal practices at Weston quarries. We are committed to dealing with individuals with fairness and respect."
Adam Roscoe
ICI Runcorn

I live near a green field housing site developed without proper planning permission. Best quality top soil was removed and in some areas was of the development was replaced by (alleged) contaminated soil...Note: contaminated soil is now in a green field site but has been covered up under "land preparation"

Colin McCarthy Penkridge

Panorama shows those who have neglected their duty. However there are many who do not. I am a Director of a Company which offers a complete remediation package for contaminated land. We both advise and if required decontaminate to a level which is suitable for the intended use of the land. This can be finally supported by a AAA Insurance policy with an international insurance company who back our expert judgement. This landpass certificate guarantees to all that the land is satisfactorily decontaminated, with recourse to the policy if it can be proved otherwise. This policy "travels" with the land. Adrien Rolt of Chichester may particularly be interested to know this and by all means give him my email number if he asks.
Peter Hobbs

I must admit to working in the environmental consultancy business but have to say that your report was not the most balanced. The issues at Weston are serious, the other sites discussed much less so. Nowadays brownfield land is redeveloped taking into account the risk to the proposed land users, with residential use likely to result in robust remediation & risk mitigation measures. Buyer beware still applies but there is a raft of information to asked for including many relevant planning and building and H&S controls to protect the public. E.g. the NHBC standards cover contaminated land (Ch. 4.1) and include issue of a validation certificate for a site to be covered under the NHBC warranty - new house buyers should ask about it. Why was this not mentioned ?.
Tim Morgan
Staverton, Totnes

Watching last nights programme we were particularly interested in comments regarding questions that should be asked before you buy a house. Many people think that environmental considerations are taken into account in the conveyancing process - but they are not. However you can now buy with environmental information via your solicitor or licensed conveyancer in the form of the Home Envirosearch report from Landmark Information Group. Home Envirosearch is available for properties throughout mainland Great Britain. The report is based on mapping from Ordnance Survey and data from statutory sources, such as the Environment Agency. It details past and present contaminating and polluting processes, landfills, waste treatment sites, nearby toxic or explosive substances, areas of the ground that may have been filled in the past, probability of radon gas, plus risk of subsidence and flooding. Home Envirosearch is approved by the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Your solicitor or conveyancer should have further information, or contact Landmark on 01392 441738 or visit their web site:
Geoff Offen @ Landmark Information Group

An interesting programme in that it has once again raised public awareness of the issue of land contamination. But what about the many successfully developed housing schemes and where were the views of the consultants that actually prepared the remediation strategies on the sites shown?
P. Knight

Good informative article! I am an environmental consultant and have been responsible for remediating heavily contaminated land and buildings - your programme highlighted the problems that I encounter on a day to day basis with The Environment Agency/Councils - i.e their lack of power with the large developers etc.
John Grummitt
Brentwood Essex

Your reporting of Enfield Lock only hurts people who have purchased there. I believe the risks to be no higher than anything else in daily life. Unless the BBC is prepared to prove contamination and support the property owners in fast, effective re-housing and compensation; than they should find other (more responsible) things to report upon.
Alan Beasley
Enfield Lock

I am curious about one thing about the Enfield Lock development. Given that the Local Authority didn't raise any objections about the development, and the EA did, who do we trust in these matters? Both the local authority and the EA represent the where do we stand. I have just exchanged contracts on a property in the Fairview Homes development, but this is subject to a mortgage, and I am now considering withdrawing my application. But surely the programme should have raised the issues in a more open manner, and provoked debate on the issue as opposed to presenting one side of the argument. There will always be an issue with developing on brownfield land. But stating that the precautions taken prior to developing on contaminated land were not enough will always be a matter of opinion. No one person will put their name to a document which unequivocally certifies former industrial land to be safe for residential development....yet again the general public loses.

Why didn't the programme question government at a higher level? I found the failure to do so, strange and worrying.
Derrick Morgan
Merthyr Tydfil

I'm involved in the remediation of contaminated sites, and have faced problems far greater than those featured in your programme which have been solved by proven techniques. I've met Mark Kibblewhite just prior to his leaving an environmental consultant for the Environment Agency. Whilst I found your perspective highly emotive, I concur that this approach is acceptable where peoples homes and futures are jeopardised. What did not feature in your programme is the numerous developments that occur each year with both local authority and EA approval, where contaminants are eliminated by engineering techniques or by neutralising technologies. The response of Barretts really annoys me. Brownfield sites are defined as having had previous use. This may be as innocuous as a Scout Hut, ranging to a chemical works. There are proven technologies available to treat problems posed by previous use, and there are many developers that will use these techniques. However there remains a need for a transparency of planning procedures to ensure that sustainable development is achieved.
Chris Ford

I noted with interest your program on contaminated land issues tonight on panorama. As stated, the vast majority of the say on contaminated land issues rests with the Local Councils and not the EA. Despite the fact that we(I am an Environment Protection Officer with the EA) can comment on applications, the councils can, if they wish, totally ignore our comments and recommendations.In fact, in many cases, this happens, or more usually, work on sites has started before we have even seen the planning apps. This varies between local council areas, I have 4 in my catchment who have different priorities with dealing with planning apps. As for the issue of Contaminated Land registers, the last government blocked plans for that some 6 years ago to stimulate the housing market so it seemed at the time. Planning comments on specific sites are best dealt with by the local Agency EPO who usually has some years experience and knowledge of their catchments and can often be the only Agency staff who can identify and pursue contaminated land issues for those sites. Sadly, due to eroding of terms and conditions, more and more of these staff are leaving and the knowledge is being lost with the problem of issues such as this "falling through the net" Despite this, I would still be in favour of Brown Field development subject to proper control and government tax breaks to finance land clean up and to help develop these sustainable sites. Thanks for an interesting program.
Keiron Phillips

As a former housing association development officer I was deeply touched by your programme. When working for one of the UK's major housing associations I took over a programme of developments in the SW. They were developing sites on old saw mills, mine tailings and MOD bases and at that time 1994/5 undertaking no significant tests for contamination. At my insistence these were undertaken and on some prospective sites revealed extreme pollution e.g. arsenic in excess of 700 PPM. When I raised my concerns with my management I soon found myself without a job and I deeply concerned that hundreds of families are now living intake homes developed on these sites unaware of the complicity of housing association and local councils to hide the facts for two reasons:- political embarrassment and additional costs that thorough remediation would have incurred
Allan D

We live 200 yards from the (biggest tip in Europe) landfill site that as a special difficult and hazardous waste licence. We have had odours from the word go 6 years now, this site as the capacity of 10 million cubic meters of waste, it will be 20 years before its full. the site is lined in parts could the gases that were tested for in the programme be present at this site?. Could this site end up like the one on the programme. we have had assurances from the environment agency that it safe we disbelieve them. we consider environment agency to be a waste of space it as taken them 2 years to bring proceedings against the site operators BFI for a incident of leachite flooding on to a sports field. for the good of he environment give the power back to the LGA's environment health department. people who know the area and give an instant response to complaints.
Cllr Phillip P Owens
Merthyr Tydfil

After watching this evenings programme I was surprised to see how little of your broadcast highlighted the implications of the North and south quarries contamination on the neighbouring village of Weston Point. As a resident of the village it is obviously a concern that we are located in between a major chemical plant and an 'alleged' contaminated quarry. I am aware that the lack of material relating to Weston Point was edited following an alleged court injection by ICI. If Weston Point is a safe as Adrian Bromley would like to believe why is he backtracking on his policy of openness and what does he have to hide.

Paul Jackson-Spruce Runcorn
(Note from Panorama: No injunction was sought or obtained.)

As the environment and our health becomes an increasingly important issue, how certain can we be that the poisons which threaten us are in the ground any more than they exist in the air or water or underneath electricity pylons, or in rusty nails left behind by a builder. Brownfield sites cannot be turned into greenfield sites. If they are to be developed with housing we must accept an element of risk as part of the price we pay to preserve the green fields we use for failing agriculture, pretty views and rare toads. Panorama paranoia, the frantic litigious search for scapegoats or genuine culprits, can only be neutralised by the informed opinion of professional environmental/ contamination consultants, (independent of government, Local Authorities and the Media). Where were they in this programme?
Roger Douglas

I would first like to say a little about my background. I have been involved in issues related to the remediation of contaminated land for about six years. My work has included site evaluation/survey, sampling, testing and report writing with recommendations on sites contaminated with heavy metals and radioisotopes. I have a masters degree in environmental management and operate independently. I am not a member of any environmental or other pressure groups. My points are these - firstly, it is obvious the Environment Agency is a toothless tiger, either by design or by poor management (I tend to the former). This point must have been obvious to everyone watching. Do they have any idea the message that they sent out last night? It said, loud and clear - do what you like we won't stop you. Secondly, I have been involved with complacent polluters through my research and they adopt an attitude which obviously works - ignore people like me, they'll go away. Example: I carried out tests to assess a landfill seal (similar to the one on the brownfield housing site in your programme) on a SSSI nature reserve site, frequented by large groups of visiting school children. When I approached the local council's environmental health department for a site history they ignored me. When I approached them with my analysis results (showing the seal to be broken and concentrated heavy metals present)they ignored me. When I approached with my recommendations they ignored me. All my research has been carried at my own expense because nobody wants to know. I am no Eco-warrior, I am a serious scientist with a genuine concern for what powerful people are doing in this country. Let's stop it!
Gary Barker
St Andrews

I live in Runcorn and I have brought my two children up here. Did I raise them on a toxic dump? Will they suffer ill health and early death because of where we live? Will their children be effected? Making soothing noises does not help. We need to KNOW what exactly to expect, what effect this poison will have now and in the future. And which total IDIOT dumped the stuff there in the first place. His NAME please. It is always the corporation that handles these things, but somewhere there is a manager who made the decision. Name him. Make it personal.

Sue Abbott Runcorn

We live on a small relatively new development on the outskirts of Washington. The land on which our houses were built on was originally contaminated with asbestos. The land was cleared for building at a huge cost. We now have the problem of land adjacent to our estate being sold to develop a scrap yard. This land is also contaminated with asbestos. The developer has been given planning permission on the strength a partial land survey which detected asbestos, but the quantities are unknown until the developer clears the site for a full test. Of course it is a coincidence that the developer must move his current operation due to a compulsory purchase of his land by the council. I ask anybody would you buy a house on a plot that was originally contaminated with asbestos, will probably have a large scrap yard as a neighbour and awaits the excavation of dormant asbestos to contaminate the estate with airborne asbestos particles. We (the residents) are currently fighting the planning permission for this "development" and would appreciate any help to stop this blight on our housing and our children's health.
Steve Jones
Washington, Tyne & Wear

Your programme unfortunately suggested that the motives of the Enfield Lock Action Group were entirely based on supposed contamination. In fact large sections of the ELAG have been opposed to the development of Enfield Island Village from the start and have used a number of tactics to delay and obstruct. You should have interviewed representatives of the many happy residents of the site as well as those who have concerns about contamination. We in EIV intend to build a viable community, although we do not get much help from ELAG, or indeed the local council.

In response to "Blighted" on BBC1 on Monday 20 March 2000. I am a student studying to be a Geography teacher at Manchester Metropolitan University and, as a result, some of the units we cover involve the investigation of environmental planning and management. After watching last night's programme, I was disgusted that large developers such as Barratt are getting away with building on sites as yet unproved as to whether they are contaminated or not. Surely as a condition of the planning permission they are told to investigate and remediate the site thoroughly? It was also interesting to note that the "qualified environmental experts" mentioned in their reports were never named; I wonder whether they actually exist! I feel it is a great shame that the Environment Agency have no jurisdiction or power over such matters, as local planning authorities seem to grant planning permission rather flippantly; perhaps the government ought to look into their role a bit more carefully. I would also like to know why the local authority which claimed to have ordered Barratt to stop building did not take further action by putting an injunction on them; they cannot remain blameless in this situation. In addition, I feel the very least ICI could do would be to pay people in the village near Runcorn the value of their houses, although I do realise it is not an ideal world. Sorry to go on, but I believe some very pressing issues were raised by last night's programme, and I feel the government ought to take a bigger interest in environmental issues, especially due to the fact that the environment sustains us all - or have they forgotten this?
Emma Claire Hopkins

In response to Mr. Morrison from Greenwich, the contaminated land at the Dome site was transported to Corby where it was dumped in landfills. Seeherefor more information. For information regarding the high incidence of birth defects in Corby, click here. Another respondent, Colin from Scotland, refers to sites that: "have been remediated successfully". Many at Greenwich might argue that the Dome site has been remediated successfully. But at what cost to the people of Corby?
Martin Bulmer

Panorama highlighted many of the problems resulting from the lack of any clear policy in the UK for dealing with the legacy of contaminated land. The new legislation contained in Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which comes into force in April, should go some way to properly addressing these issues. It is an incredibly detailed piece of legislation, covering all the aspects that need to be addressed, particularly identification and liability. However, the new legislation DOES NOT make any specific requirement for registers of contaminated land to be maintained by the local authority, just information related to remediation notices, etc. This reflects the Government's continued sensitivity to the fears of property developers of property blight. Thus, problems may still be encountered when trying to assess whether or not a piece of land is contaminated.
Simon Ramsdale
Kingston upon Thames

I live about a 1/4 of a mile from a burnt out factory that had stood as an eyesore and a dangerous playground for the local children. This was eventually demolished and ground up into a big pile of rubble. The children still play there and I am pretty sure that the roofing was Asbestos. I would lay money on it that the roofing material was not removed from the building before it was demolished. So it must have been ground up with the rest of the building. So who can you trust to report this kind of irresponsible behaviour to.

The contamination of Weston village by I.C.I. has devastated the residents, and your programme helped to convey this human tragedy. One disappointing aspect however was that Adrian Bromley did not offer any real assurances to the Community in your programmes a solicitor who is acting on behalf of a number of residents, I am aware that general waffle and assurances from I.C.I. have not been accompanied by real Action. This disaster affects not only Weston Village but also Weston Point. Estate Agents will not market properties in the area and already certain Mortgage Lenders have made clear that they will not grant mortgages for people to buy homes in Weston. It is about time that Mr Bromley and others at I.C.I. realise that actions speak louder than words!

Gareth Jones (Solicitor)Swindon

An interesting programme and one that is long overdue. Needless to say in this one programme you can hardly scratch the surface of the issue. The programme did not consider the plight of such towns as Corby. Corby has a very high incidence of birth defects that are being strongly linked with toxic landfills. Furthermore, there are hundred if not thousands of landfills all around the country that are accepting waste that is largely uncharacterised and that reacts producing further harmful elements. Further programmes need to be focussed upon the Dirty Business that is the Waste Handling Business in the country and what's more, serious questions need to be asked of the Environment Agency that far from being the guardians of our environment, seems in many, many cases to be acting as the facilitator, helping companies to despoil the land and poison the population. Residents in Dartford in the programme were very scared of the value of their houses from being affected. In my own areas, the rateable value of housing was reduced by one third when a domestic landfill was opened in the village. This is happening right across the country and the government and the population need to wake up! We cannot continue producing and dealing with our waste as we have done for years. Incineration is not the answer either. What is needed is a radical change of attitude and approach
Martin Bulmer

What about the Millennium Dome site and surrounding area? All built on contaminated land and due not to have anything built on it according to a government report at the time until well into the 21st.century. This site belonged to British Gas for many years and was considered to be unsuitable for building due to being highly contaminated. Until plans for the Dome were drawn up and this site was chosen, then nothing else was ever heard about the land being contaminated. Check it out for yourselves !!!!!!
Mr. Morrison

Many Housing Associations are building on 'brown field sites'. This land is cheap at the price as well as toxic. The wealthy who are fortunate to live in rural green belt areas do not have the anxieties of living on polluted land.Many of the Housing committees are made up of middle class professionals who do not have homes built on toxic waste sites.

The programme stated that ICI has taken responsibility for the crisis in Weston, but it should be noted that they have offered us no compensation or property value guarantee despite being closer to the contamination than a lot of householders who have received these offers.

Peter Ridehalgh
Social class is very much alive in housing. Social housing incidentally is blighted by antisocial tenants why not make a programme?
Mr Roger P Murphy

In May 1998 I bought a house 200 metres from the North Quarry in Weston. We had a land search carried out and nothing untoward showed up. The programme stated that ICI has taken responsibility for the crisis in Weston, but it should be noted that they have offered us no compensation or property value guarantee despite being closer to the contamination than a lot of householders who have received these offers.
Peter Ridehalgh

I work on contaminated land projects - heavy metals, asbestos etc etc. Panorama was very interesting this evening, what about sites that have been remediated successfully? Cost how much does the developer want to spend on a desk study identifying potential hazards, site investigation, site remediation. Cost how cheaply does the Environmental Consultancy quote to win the job? The cheapest methodology is not always the most effective. Often contracts are won on cheap methodologies that do not address the potential contaminants and their risks properly. The lagacy of contaminated land has a long long way to run.

Thank you for your programme revealing the problems that are occurring in the village of Weston in Runcorn and other areas that are also suffering from similar discoveries. As the daughter of a resident of Weston and having grown up there myself, I have been following the distressing revelations that ICI have made and witnessing first hand the utter distress which people in the area are in at the present time. There is a terrible feeling of uncertainty in the area and people are very concerned for their futures. Unfortunately due to a boundary system of 'zones' which ICI have set up - a judgement as to who is at greatest risk from the contamination - many people are finding themselves in a position where they have diminished help from ICI regarding relocation, and in some cases no help at all despite the fact that their houses will never be bought. People are having to resort to legal advice in achieving a fair deal from ICI. Surely this shouldn't have to be the case when a company is so glaringly at fault.
Lucinda Worden

Your programme was unfortunately deeply one sided. The problem of remediation of brown field sides is a complex subject, which has to be addressed and discussed in the public arena. But not in the manner in which your programme has tackled the problem. In the south and south east of England the number of houses and areas of land available for such housing is being widely argued and debated. In order to preserve open areas of the south and south east, the remediation and redevelopment of brown field sites must be considered. When considering forms of remediation its is now being considered more appropriate to deal with contaminated soils on site and provide adequate means of capping (where leaching of contaminants is not a problem) in order to avoid removing contaminants and simple transferring the problem to yet another site. Your programme did not set out to educate the public and allow sensible debate but instead went for cheap and easy sensationalism. You have done the construction business, country folk of the south and south east and poor house owners of sites you targeted a great disservice.

New housing developments since 1995 have been required to have Health & Safety Files prepared detailing residual health and safety issues in accordance with the Construction Design and Management Regulations. The responsibility for preparing this information is with the Developer, who also has a duty to ensure this information is passed to the house purchaser. These regulations are enforced by the Health & Safety Executive. With this information purchases would be made with full knowledge.
Peter Russell
Sutton Coldfield

l am a developer. As you know we are now required to develop brownfield sites. Most of these have some potential for contamination. This could range from the "vitamin pill" level to seriously toxic, but the public do not trust us to give the answer. What we need is someone to give a certificate, on which they are prepared to be sued, as to what level of work is required, and then that (having done it) we have conclusively brought the land up to residential standards. Then we simply deduct the cost of doing the required schedule of works from the price that we bid for the land. This costs us nothing - the landowner (often the polluter) pays. In the present litigious environment, there is no-one, or no agency, prepared to give this certification - leaving us exposed giving the feeble sounding, but usually entirely true, response that we have done what a specialist consultant advised.
Adrian Rolt

I listened with interest about the serious problems which residents are having with the Brown field sites BARRATT DEVELOPMENTS. We too up in Scotland are experiencing problems with Barratt the Builders. I have to say that one of the interviewees commented that its not in Barratts interests in the long run to do this kind of thing. However consider the very small amounts fined in Court, it is in their interests. What has to happen is that they or their masters are taken to court and held to task and not for a few pennies as it seems to be. In Lawthorn Irvine(Cairnmount) we too have had many problems. These have been printed in the National Papers e.g. The Herald. Two Unique WEBSITES have been designed to show the malpractice that go on with Barratt the Builders. Keep up the good work Panorama! If we could find out Sir Lawrence Barratt's Email then I'm sure he may listen (if he really lives in a Barratt home...I think not). I would be interested in your comments.
Mike Hlibyczuk
Irvine, Ayrshire,Scotland

We're in the process of buying a Fairview Homes house at their Egham site, which is ex light industrial, what should we be verifying or looking for? Having been gazumped twice we thought buying a new house was low risk - please help.
David Thacker

I've worked at ICI for 25 years. Your programme and local TV news exacerbate the local community's difficulties in dealing with this issue. I don't believe that ICI would knowingly endanger the people in Weston village. What the media has done is to frighten people where there is no clear threat. And it's this 'playing' with the local residents emotions that annoys a lot of people. It should be remembered that the guidelines for the dumping of waste is controlled by the Government, not industry. So if there is any blame to be laid, it should be against the Government.
Jim Jones

Yet again Panorama does the Government's dirty work. Brownfield site contamination? Oh well let us build on green fields then! Why bother following the conservation rules that other governments have respected for 100 years? With a falling population, why do we need these new houses anyway? What will happen to the North when everyone is squeezed into a massive ugly concrete sprawl called the South-East? How many more roads will we need to build to cope with 1 million new houses? How many new Hospitals or Factory units? The questions you should be asking is, why do we need to build when there are so many empty houses and holiday cottages!
J Stewart

Having just seen your programme tonight about new housing developments being built on brownfield sites we thought we would share a very recent experience we have had, which appears to be similar to that of one of the gentlemen interviewed. We were recently in the process of purchasing a new house being built in High Wycombe Buckinghamshire. We had reserved our plot and due to exchange contracts, however, the developers pulled out of our purchase 72 hours before exchange of contracts giving inconclusive reasons. Our Solicitor had requested a copy of the scientific report on the possibility of contamination from chemicals used at the furniture factory previously occupying the site. To our knowledge this information was never submitted. We wonder if our Solicitor had dug too deep for the developers liking!
Richard Scoble and Stephanie Birch
Uxbridge, Middlesex

As a teenager during the 1960's and early '70's most of my spare time was spent fishing lakes which eventually became the dumping holes for millions of tons of the foulest dangerous chemicals. I remember quite clearly dragging from one of the lakes two large metal drums clearly marked "Granulated Cyanide". On one occasion my brother and I reported to the local police the dumping of hundreds of thousands of phials of dangerous drugs - mainly Barbiturates - like Phenobarbitone. We made a point of reporting this not just because of the nature of the drugs but because they had been dumped within a few yards (literally) of the school playing field. The police did not take the matter seriously, seemingly only interested in me and my brothers authority to be at the site. As fishing club members we did have that authority. In 1967 as a fourteen year-old I fell waist-deep into a freshly discharged pool of chemicals of a caustic nature. I was very badly injured and spent four nights in hospital and six weeks incapacitated in my own home. Attempts by older fishing club members to photograph the discharging of chemicals were often met by violent threats. I believe the overall responsibility laid with the council to whom I regularly wrote with complaints. In the early 70's, and to nobody's surprise, the poisons leached their way through to what was known as the main fishing pool and completely wiped out the entire stock of fish. In due course all of the once beautiful lakes were filled and levelled and to this day the area remains an eyesore. I would not recommend anybody to purchase property built on this land.
Cliff Hatton
South Woodham Ferrers

Land near my home was sold by the local NHS Trust. Buildings on the site were of asbestos construction. I believe buildings were demolished by the developer without proper regard for either the health and safety of employees or of people in the area. I believe it is likely that asbestos dust was released into the atmosphere and may still be present on the site. Exposure to asbestos dust is known to cause fatal diseases.
Jane Moody

Your reporting is very emotive. I note that in your programme resume you state that 'ICI have poisoned a village'. This is a very bold statement for a programme that is supposed to provoke debate. The one question I have is where should houses be built if not on brownfield sites...greenfield perhaps? Or would there be content here for yet another programme so full of provocative images of discarded reports surrounded by brick refuse? When will the British public see the media for what it is?

I moved to Thatcham three years ago to a Greenfield development. Before that, I lived in Tividale Quays, which was a brownfield development of a type where the industry was far heavier than that in Thatcham. I think the dangers on the Saxon Court site are highly exaggerated and unfair to those of us who live here. It probably won't affect the value of my house, but could affect that of houses in the area of Saxon Court.
Pete Baggett

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