Plans for homes on British Sugar site could receive boost

The site of a former British Sugar factory in York could soon undergo land remediation as part of plans to build over 1,000 homes in the area.

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The plans to develop the site for residential use have been delayed a number of times and work cannot begin until 2020, as the land will take three years to be free of contamination. Only weeks ago, it was announced that the development might have to go before a public inquiry; now, it is hoped that a big step forward can be made and work can start on the decontamination process.

Agree to remediation work

Planners at City of York Council are being urged to agree to the proposal for a land remediation service to begin clearing the site and removing the contamination so that construction work can commence.

The detailed report provided to the council’s planning committee shows the extent of work that will be necessary. The site has increased levels of ammonia, ground gas, petroleum hydrocarbons, asbestos, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in a layer up to 13 metres thick.

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Work on the decontamination will be conducted by a land remediation service such as, which will first excavate and then treat the earth before reusing it when the contamination levels have dropped below the allowed levels.

If approval is gained for the decontamination work, a planning appeal regarding the matter will be made redundant; however, there is still an outline application pending that faces a separate appeal.

The problem of contaminated land

Many potential housing sites are on former industrial land, which can have left behind a number of substances that are potentially harmful, such as hydrocarbons, sulphuric acid and lead. It is essential that the land is correctly treated and the contamination removed before it can be used for construction.

The problems of contamination are not typically visible immediately; however, they can cause issues in the garden, with risk to vegetables and children playing. Other contaminants might not be directly harmful but can cause damage to groundwater or the ecosystem.

The Soil Guideline Values and Environment Quality Standards provide action levels for each contaminant. Soil test results are compared to these to see whether remediation work is necessary when the concentration level is too high.