Council will pay to clear up toxic land

PUBLISHED: 14:42 02 March 2006 | UPDATED: 13:17 04 May 2010

FAMILIES In Littleport are celebrating this week after councillors agreed to foot the bill for remedial work to rid their gardens of a toxic substance. The decision, made at an East Cambs District Council meeting, signalled victory for residents of 26 hom

FAMILIES In Littleport are celebrating this week after councillors agreed to foot the bill for remedial work to rid their gardens of a toxic substance.

The decision, made at an East Cambs District Council meeting, signalled victory for residents of 26 homes in Old School Close and Ponts Hill, who have fought a three-year battle with the authorities after dangerous levels of benzoapyrene, a carcinogen, were found in the soil in February 2003. A burst of applause greeted the council's unanimous vote in favour of action at Thursday's meeting.

The full council voted to pick up the bill for the work, at a cost of £370,000, which will come out of the council's revenue reserves.

Councillor Pauline Wilson told the meeting: "I think it's important for this council to be helping these residents.

"I encourage all members to support this motion as it is important to the health and safety of the residents."

Cllr Andy Wright added: "The residents have been between a rock and a hard place. "This motion is not about guilt or blame but about resolving the problem. "The Government has been less than helpful on this and I think it is appalling that a small authority like ours should be left to do something."

As part of the motion, which was amended from the one which appeared on the agenda, the council will seek a meeting with the Government to get financial assistance in carrying out the work. Ministers will now be urged to take action to address the concerns of residents.

Cambridgeshire County Council will also be consulted to see what contribution it will make towards the remedial work.

Cllr Fred Brown concluded: "It's the first time in many months these residents have had something to cling on to."

Residents affected by the toxic land issue have spoken of their joy at the council's decision.

John Alexander, chairman of the residents' association whose daughter has a home in Old School Close, said: "What was pleasing was that the decision was unanimous. It's a big step forward.

"I suppose their will be some stigma attached to the homes at the start but in the long-term we will have our certificate of cleanliness to help us sell the homes if we need to. "We always felt that the district council had some responsibility and some moral obligation. "We are very pleased that the district council has taken a really positive approach to this but I accept that we will now work with East Cambs to see what funding the Government will give us."

Amanda Murfitt, of Old School Close, was another to give the district council the thumbs-up. She said: "Full remediation was the only acceptable result for the residents and to see the unanimous decision at the full council meeting was such an enormous relief and we are obviously very pleased.

"The council has listened to our concerns and we thank them for giving us the opportunity to express these at the recent seminar. It is important now as residents that we work together with the Environment Services department at ECDC to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion for all parties. Once our land is free from contaminants we can all move on with our lives.

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