Contaminated Soil: An NHH + L&Q Response

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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.

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See our Silwood Video Group project pages for more information and videos.
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Waiting for Godot: The Silwood Diaries

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At this month’s Residents Meeting (5th May), the rolling issue of the Pocket Park was raised. The park (sans grass) has been opened, and then closed, on and off for the last 6 to 12 months, and as it is the only source of outside space provided for young people on the Silwood as part of one of London & Quadrant’s Section 106 contracts, there is rising concern by parents.

‘Health and Safety’ issues were cited as the primary reason by L & Q officials at the meeting, however the nature of these health and safety issues were unable to be clarified when enquiries were made. Silwood Video Group members were told simply that there are ‘more repairs that need to be done to the park. This has been passed back to the contractor. As soon as these repairs are done, the park will be opened.’ It is unlikely that L &Q would be unaware of specific problems (if there were any), and seeing as children climbing over the gates in order to access the park (as they habitually do) presents greater health and safety risks, such an answer has not assuaged the residents’ questions, or annoyance.

Let’s hope that Godot, in the form of the golden key to the Pocket Park, decides to turn up soon…

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Silwood Community Forum – Wednesday 5th May – NEW SPEAKER

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John Lumley, the Development Manager for the Silwood project, has agreed to attend next week’s Residents’ Community Forum and will be available to answer any questions. The meeting will take place at 6:30pm at the Lewington Centre.

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The Good. The Bad. And Section 106.

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Spectacle, having established the Silwood Video Group, have been an active presence on the Silwood Estate since 2001, and in nearly 10 years of voluntary film-workshops and attendance at Residents’ Meetings, we have seen the landscape of this slice of South-East London change, and change as a result of regeneration.

Since 2005 at the Residents’ Forum Meetings, which are now held quarterly, the residents have asked to see the business plans for development and to have access to details of Section 106, which was declared a ‘non-public document’ by the London & Quadrant NIT Manager on the Silwood. The statement was later retracted, but the Section 106 document, to date, has not been made available to residents.

Tower Homes, the commercial wing of London & Quadrant, won the planning permission rights to the land in the Silwood area, on which they intended to build luxury apartments. By law, this makes them accountable to Section 106 Agreement of the Town and Country Planning Act (1990), which states that if development is agreed upon, for example, Lewisham Council awarding planning permission to Tower Homes, then the new landowners must provide resources that are of benefit to the community that will be affected by the development. In the case of the Silwood, London & Quadrant was entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the re-provision of community facilities, play areas/ parks, and youth centres on the Estate, which were demolished as a result of the regeneration process. The Lewington Centre was then built as a replacement for the former community centre and the Cyber Centre under Section 106.

Residents are currently being asked to pay relatively steep rates in order to use their new Centre, but the bone of contention lies in the fact that, according to the ‘Regeneration Project Initiation Document’, freely available from Lewisham Council, London & Quadrant allocated a fund of £2 million in order to meet their Section 106 obligations. On top of this, despite the claim of London & Quadrant representatives at Residents’ Meetings on the Silwood that these rates are essential to their business plan and the long-term running of the Lewington Centre, their business plan for 2009 shows that they have made a profit in the region of £120, 000. So why do they seem so unwilling to invest in fully rebuilding the local infrastructure?

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Silwood Land for Silwood Residents?

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As part of the continued regeneration of the Silwood Estate, an application has been submitted by London & Quadrant Housing Association for planning permission on vacant land that residents wanted to be used to provide play areas for their children. After a series of quarterly meetings in which residents were unable to obtain information from L & Q representatives as to status of the Lewisham Council-owned land, it has become apparent that the housing trust themselves have made a bid for it. According to Planning Application DC/09/73169/X , L & Q are seeking permission to build tower blocks ‘ranging from 2 storeys… to 6 storeys’ in the area north of Silwood Street. Residents have requested that this issue be raised at the next Silwood Community Meeting.

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Silwood Community Forum – Wednesday 5th May

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There will be a comunity meeting at the Lewington Centre on the Silwood Estate next Wednesday, 5th May, at 6.30pm. On the agenda is: 1) Introductions & Apologies; 2) Minutes of Last Meeting; 3) Lewington Centre – Steering Group; 4) Project Updates on: Housing, Police, Catch 22, Community Development, Funding Opportunities; and 5) Any Other Business.

For more information on the Silwood and our on-going involvement, check out our Silwood blog

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