Gardens & wildlife

Crescent Road and Contamination

Asbestos cladding was removed from 28 Crescent Road in 2000, over 18 months after half the building was converted into residential accommodation.

It is highly likely that buildings at 28B Crescent Road also contain asbestos.

However, 'dangerous and contaminated materials within the structure of the very buildings proposed for conversion' (in planning application BH2014/03343  appear to fall outside the terms of reference of the 'Professional Assessment' obtained by the developer declaring that there is not a "High Potential Risk" of Contaminated Land.

Limited assessment of contamination risks

01 October 2014: Supporting Document(s)

land & flood risk assessment part 1

01 October 2014: Supporting Document(s)

land & flood risk assessment part 2

The survey, which can be accessed via the above links, is a land and not a buildings survey. It is compiled using the available data within a few well-known national databases (e.g. Environment Agency; British Geological Survey, The Coal Authority; Public Health England; Ordnance Survey, Getmapping). These records can be referenced hundreds of miles away from the application site.

The 'Professional Assessment' does NOT include specific enquiries to the Local Authority. The Council does hold additional information. Application BH2000/01861/FP to remove asbestos cladding from 28 Crescent Road, easily accessed through online search of The Council's Online Planning Register, is but a single example, but no mention is made of it or any other past planning application dealing with a problem.

Neither does the 'Professional Assessment' include a site visit or inspection. Unless instances of contamination have been entered into one or more of the national databases, this kind of professional assessment (an office and desk job) is not going to find the data.

The land survey offered by the developer in support of BH2014/01815 does not cover dangerous and defective materials within the buildings proposed for conversion. No householder looking for asbestos or woodworm on their property would use an aerial view from mapping applications; they would surely invite a specialist company on site to take physical samples of flaking asbestos and woodworm debris. The developer's survey is careful to qualify its own limitations. Approximate terms rather than precise measurements are used to describe levels of risk. This might avoid lawsuits relating to false assurances, but the limits of this survey (offered in support of BH2014/03343  do not help at all in physical identification of contaminated materials.

At our meeting with the Council Officers, we were assured that their own Environmental Health Department would take responsibility for the physical investigations needed to check the levels of contamination of the buildings.

Other Councils and contamination risks

How do other Councils assign roles and responsibilities in relation to the assessment of contamination risks?

Blackburn's Contaminated Land Technical Planning Guidance emphasises that:

  1. the responsibility for all aspects of the development remains at all times with the developer and their advisors. Developers should therefore fully appreciate the importance of competent professional advice.
  2. The Local Authority cannot accept responsibility for the thoroughness of reports or investigations nor the effectiveness of the design and completion of remediation measures.
  3. Page 13 of their Guidance contains a flowchart indicating the steps which a developer is expected to take in relation to checking for land contamination. Step 1.4 specifies a site walkover survey to determine current land use (storage/use/disposal potentially hazardous materials

Manchester has a step [see section 5.8 of their guidance] for developers to follow when the presence of asbestos within made ground is suspected or within a building due for demolition. They have another procedure which requires action by the developer when members of the public are concerned about the presence of asbestos on neighbouring properties or on current developments close by. In section 1.2 of their ground contamination document, Manchester offers a planning definition of contaminated land: Typical causes of land contamination include previous industrial or commercial usage, mining, and the landfilling of wastes. Land can also become contaminated due to its proximity to contaminated areas.

What we expect of our own Council

How can it be reasonable for it to fall on Brighton and Hove City Council's Environmental Health Department, which operates on ratepayers' money,  to check everything out for developers? It would need an enormous staff & budget to take this level of responsibility for all the planning applications in the city while performing so many other duties - food hygiene, health & safety inspections, responding to complaints of noise nuisance, pollution control and licensing - to name but a few.

Potential environmental health risks have slipped through the net previously at 28 Crescent Road and it would be unfair to hold the Council's department responsible. I notice that there was over an 18-month gap between permission being granted in January 1999 to convert 28 Crescent Road into a home and a separate permission at the same building in September 2000 which included removal of asbestos cladding

I am most surprised that a developer claiming permitted development rights to build homes on a site with an industrial history (where laundry workers once died in an outbreak of smallpox) is not required to provide a detailed report on contamination within the structure of former laundry buildings which have clearly seen better days.

If The Council's Environmental Health Department is willing to use ratepayers' money to do the developer's job for them, then it owes local residents a thorough survey of its own on contamination risks BEFORE the issue of prior approval is decided.

This page was last updated by Ted on 27-Jan-2019
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