Shadow Minister seeks review of land contamination rules

The Government should review its regulations over contaminated land, a front bench Conservative MP has said, to prevent more homes being branded as blighted with polluted soils.

Malcolm Moss MP , Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, called for the review after a number of homes in his constituency, built on, or near, a former gas works site in the early 1990s, were found to contain contaminated soils beneath them.

One of the contaminants, benzoate pyrene, is known to be carcinogenic if taken in large doses and homeowners have been advised not to eat home grown fruit or vegetables.

As a result, they cannot sell or re-mortgage their homes because they are considered to be blighted.

The contamination was discovered at the site, at Littleport in East Cambridgeshire, in April 2003 and residents have only until December 2005 to bring a legal case within the 15 year time limit from when their houses were bought.

Mr Moss has been meeting with residents throughout the year and has now called for an adjournment debate as well as a meeting with Environment Minister Elliot Morley.

Speaking to edie news, Mr Moss said: “It is not just Littleport that this will affect, this is an example of what is likely to happen to lots of places in the future.”

“The soil guidance values are not really sorted by the Environment Agency to a point where they are practical,” he said. “Most properties would register some levels of these chemicals in their garden soils. This same compound is present in most burnt material, for example, cinders from coal fires. People always used to spread cinders on their paths and gardens, so would no doubt test positive for this compound.”

He is hoping that a debate could move Mr Morley to re-examine the rules governing contamination and assess the risk threshold which appears to be set at too low a value and could cause unnecessary suffering to many families throughout the country.

Mr Moss has applied for an adjournment debate during the week beginning 21st November when Ministers and officials from both Defra and ODPM can debate it.

He points to the regulations in the Netherlands where a ‘target’ and an ‘acceptable’ level exist for soil contaminants to reflect the reality of soil conditions and the likely risk that they pose.

By David Hopkins

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