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Contamination risks ignored at Port Meadow development

Thursday, 23 May 2013 08:29

Campaigners have discovered that a contamination study of land at Port Meadow, where Oxford University is completing controversial new accommodation blocks, has not yet been properly carried out even though it should have taken place before building work began.

The former railway sidings are potentially contaminated land and the Environment Agency said that a survey, risk assessment and remedial action plan were all needed before work began to avoid ‘unacceptable risk’. This was included as a condition of the planning permission.

However, with the buildings now well underway, local campaigners have discovered that the University has still not complied with the condition.

Moreover, the City Council appears to be happy to let the situation continue. An officer’s report to Council in April justifies the fact that building has gone ahead without the condition being fulfilled saying: ‘Officers did not anticipate contamination being a problem for this site in part because the use for student accommodation is not classified as a sensitive one, as it would be, for example, for private housing with gardens.’

Helen Marshall, Director of CPRE Oxfordshire, said: “It is appalling that a planning condition put in place to protect human and environmental health has been ignored. Obviously we do not know whether there is a risk, we only know that the Environment Agency thought it serious enough to require an analysis given the previous use of the site. I am not an expert in the dangers from these chemicals but neither, I would suggest, are the Council officers. That is exactly why the Environment Agency advice is so important and should have been adhered to.  

“I don’t think students will be reassured by being told that their accommodation is not ‘sensitive’, and of course contamination could potentially affect neighbouring residents and allotment holders, not to mention the biodiversity of Port Meadow itself.

“We have therefore submitted information relating to these contamination issues as part of our application to the High Court seeking a Judicial Review of the whole process by which planning permission was granted.”  

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