Page last updated at 10:37 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 11:37 UK

Corby toxic dust case mediation begins

Child's deformed hand
Some children living close to the Corby site were born with deformities

Mediation between a Northamptonshire council and families of children with birth defects is under way, with a decision expected on Friday.

Last year a High Court judge said Corby Borough Council was negligent in its clean-up of a steel works, allowing chemicals to affect pregnant women.

Poisonous dust released by the clean-up was "capable" of causing limb deformities, the court ruled.

Compensation is being discussed with retired judge Sir Henry Brooke.

The aim is to secure an out-of-court settlement.

Des Collins, solicitor for the families, said: "We believe these cases are capable of reaching a negotiated settlement.

"We believe the mediation can and should be successful. We're hopeful.

"The level of damages we have put on each case is substantial. It's within what you might refer to as industry norms."

Cost to taxpayers

Chris Mallender, chief executive at Corby Borough Council, said: "We have reached a view that there are going to be no outright winners in this.

"In the circumstances we feel that it's better that we try and find a middle ground, we settle in a way that's fair to the families, but is also fair in terms of the residual burden on the council tax payer."

On the subject of cost to council tax payers, Mr Mallender said: "Every £1m of cost involves a payment £5 per household in Corby on average, per year, for the next 20 years.

"So, simple maths: if the overall bill is £5m, it's £25 per household for 20 years."

The High Court had earlier found in favour of 16 out of 18 families and ruled the clean-up at the works may have led to birth defects in children in their mothers' wombs.

Corby Borough Council is to appeal against the ruling but in the meantime has begun mediation with the claimants and families involved in the case.

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