Contaminated Soil: An NHH + L&Q Response

silwood estate returfing

On the 28th of July, Spectacle received a reply to inquiries into the contaminated top-soil on the Silwood estate. We have recently compared the answers we received from Notting Hill Housing and London & Quadrant in response to the questions we posed:

Spectacle: From where was the topsoil currently being removed brought?
Notting Hill Housing + London and Quadrant: We understand from the groundwork sub-contractor the original soil was sourced from the South-East area. (where?)
S: Have soil tests been conducted on the contaminated soil, and if so, what did the results of these tests reveal?
NHH + L&Q: 15 gardens were tested by a geotechnical engineer between May and September 2009. The laboratory tests confirmed 11 of the 15 gardens had soil marginally above Environment Agency ‘Contaminated Land Exposure Assessment (C.L.E.A) ‘trigger levels’ for domestic gardens. (what are ‘trigger levels’? what is the scale?)
S: What are the health consequences related to this soil contamination?
NHH + L&Q: We do not consider the marginal nature of the soil classification poses any threat to health. It is key to note the soil was classified as being adequate for communal gardens and that of the sample tested 27 percent were deemed to be suitable for domestic use by the Environment Agency C.L.E.A. (27 percent, 4 out of 15, is not a laudable percentage. has an independent party provided comment on/ looked into health concerns?)
S: How is any contamination thought to have arisen?
NHH + L&Q: As part of the build contract, Higgins Construction sourced and imported top soil. (… which was already contaminated? … which became contaminated en route? … which was not fit for purpose (domestic use) and became contaminated after installation? when did contamination occur and how?)
S: For how long has Higgins Construction known about any contamination present in the topsoil?
NHH + L&Q: In March 2009, it was brought to our attention that a Planning Consent condition relating to ground remediation had not been discharged. In order to satisfy the condition, Higgins Construction arranged to take further soil samples from across sample of gardens in May and September 2009. The results of these tests were sent to the Lewisham Council Environmental Health Officer and Planning Department to sign off the condition that all soil and sub-soil met the required specification… a few fell outside of the required level s for domestic gardens.
S: Will any contamination have affected the fruit and vegetables grown in some residents’ gardens in such a way as might adversely affect the health of anyone who might eat them?
NHH + L&Q: The marginal nature of the soil classification does not pose a threat to health from eating produce grown in the soil. It is key to note that soil in any garden would have a degree of ‘contamination’ and that the issue is about present day classification.
S: On what basis was the £250 compensation for each affected garden calculated?
NHH + L&Q: The £250 is an arbitrary without prejudice figure offered by Higgins as fair compensation for the disruption to residents’ lives’ during the works.
S: How long will these works (removing contaminated topsoil, replacing it with new topsoil, and repairing residents’ gardens) take?
NHH + L&Q: As of the 16th July the works are complete to approximately half of the gardens, with the end of August being the forecast completion of the last property. This is slightly longer than first envisaged but ensuring the work is completed safely and correctly remains the priority. The quantity of residents’ garden apparatus and replanting to some gardens has elongated the original programme , but Higgins wish to ensure all tenants receive a high standard garden replacement.
S: How much will these works (removing contaminated topsoil, replacing it with new topsoil, and repairing residents’ gardens) cost?
NHH + L&Q: As it was a contractual obligation of Higgins Construction PLC to discharge the planning consent, the cost of the remedial works is being met by Higgins Construction PLC and notbeing passed to the respective RSL. The estimated cost is over £100,000 and is being wholly financed by Higgins Construction PLC as part of their contractual obligation.
S: In addition, we were informed during a conversation on Silwood Estate with a Higgins Construction employee that some paperwork related to the contaminated topsoil had been lost. We would therefore also like to know:
Of what nature was this lost paperwork?
How was this paperwork lost?
If this lost paperwork was in connection with the contamination of the topsoil, why is the issue only being addressed now, several years after the topsoil was bought and laid in residents’ gardens?
NHH + L&Q: Higgins Construction PLC advises that no paperwork has been lost. Lewisham require further documentation to discharge the planning condition and all current work is being very carefully monitored and all soil is being tested. Final analysis and a Conclusion Report will be submitted to the Lewisham Planning Department to clear the final condition to the planning consent after the works are completed.

Keep an eye on the Spectacle Blog for updates on this issue.

Click Silwood Video Group for more blogs
See our Silwood Video Group project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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Silwood Residents’ “Frequently” Asked Questions…

distressed resident waters her dying fig tree

Prior to having their gardens dug up and the topsoil replaced, residents of Silwood were sent a sheet of “Frequently Asked Questions” as an attachment to a letter from L&Q.  The FAQ sheet covers matters such as whether the residents’ houses will be entered during the works, what will happen to sheds and garden furniture, and if any fences will be moved. As various conversations with the residents suggest, (along with common sense, of course), the questions covered are not even close to the ones really requiring answers.

When explaining why the work is taking place, the sole answer given is that the present soil does not “meet current guidelines”. Surely it is necessary for the residents to know what the soil is actually contaminated with? Are there any health implications to eating produce from this soil? Due to lack of information, rumours of asbestos and cancer are spreading through the Silwood estate. Why were the residents given such short notice, eliminating the option of planning ahead and rescuing all possible plantations in time for the works?

The £250 compensation for “the inconvenience” is the final issue addressed on the sheet; but there is no detail what the compensation is for. The “inconvenience” is certainly longer than the two weeks stated. So will the compensation be more?

Would the residents really be more interested in whether they can “use the patio area” during the works, than if their physical health is under threat? Probably not, no.

Next blog: Will Higgins answer the frequently asked questions residents urgently need answering?

Click Silwood Video Group for more blogs
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.
See our Silwood Video Group project pages for more information and videos.

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Follow SpectacleMedia on Twitter

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