Brades Rise, Sandwell case study - Seaton Carew, Hartlepool - Highlighting the importance of historical land use information

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Courtesy of Landmark Information Group

ANGRY homeowners are demanding compensation after experts discovered a wide area of residential land has been poisoned with lead, arsenic and zinc. Ninety-one homes on an estate in Seaton Carew, Hartlepool are affected and owners fear house prices will plummet.

Council chiefs are now taking legal action against the former landowners and the company which built the properties in the 1970s, but warned that it could take several years for the problem to be resolved for those affected. The land was used as a storage area for pit props treated with preservatives from the early 1900s until the 1960s, but experts believe the contamination could be caused by ash that was dumped there from coke works.

Warning for children

Council chiefs declared that there was no need for members of the public to worry as any contaminants would be buried underground, and not on the surface. However, residents were told not to let children play with soil in their gardens while further tests are carried out and the situation could be determined. The perimeter of the former brown field land, where pit props coated in a chemical preservative used to be stored, was investigated and more tests were subsequently required in residents’ gardens. A steering group, made up of engineers, the Primary Care Trust, the Health Protection Agency, and a resident's representative, was formed.

A key concern related to the extent to which individual houses are affected by indoor dust from contaminants. The department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is expected to meet the £250,000 cost of the investigation, but the bills for legal action will have to be paid by taxpayers.

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