Contamination fears at proposed housing site
COAL dust described as “contaminated” is blowing around homes bordering the site of a contentious proposed housing development in Mirfield.
Campaigners who are against Bellway Homes’ plan to build on Balderstone Hall Fields say they are disgusted and appalled that earthmovers have stripped all the topsoil from the 11.4-acre parcel of land off Wellhouse Lane.
The work forms part of “ground investigation works” to scour the site for unrecorded mine workings following advice by the Coal Authority.
But objectors say as well as affecting nearby properties the swirling dust from historical mine workings also risks endangering the health of children at a local primary school.
And they fear that the land is being cleared in readiness for the construction of an access road – even though no planning permission has been granted.
Bellway has applied to build a 60-house estate on the site, which is believed to be riddled with ancient mine entries and deep shafts.
Cheryl Tyler, from Save Mirfield, said a geophysical survey of the area could identify ancient mine workings that would prompt a re-design of Bellway’s layout.
However she said the work that has taken place since the end of August was “unsatisfactory”.
She added: “This is just a cynical attempt to make it look like they’re being very thorough.
“They are for appearances and in doing so they’ve made a terrible mess that is affecting local residents in a very bad way.
“Last week people couldn’t open their windows or hang their washing out. And if the autumn is a dry one then the problem won’t go away.”
Local town councillor Steve Benson, of the campaign group Project Mirfield, directly accused Bellway of creating “a serious environmental hazard”.
He said removing top soil would reveal coal dust that could be tainted with an array of toxic substances including arsenic and cadmium.
He said: “I am absolutely disgusted as to the way this topsoil strip is being managed with no responsibility to local residents and the small children at Crossley Fields School.
“The contaminated dust, on this occasion, is spreading on to Hepworth Drive. If the wind changes direction and blows the contaminated dust on to Crossley Fields School then it should be shut to protect the children.”
Clr Benson has demanded that all located mine entries are covered over to halt the spread of the contamination and that all test samples should be taken from all mine entries “to find out what is being wilfully spread around our neighbourhood.”
A spokesman for Bellway Homes said the company was required by the Coal Authority and Kirklees Council to fully explore the development to identify the existence of any historic localised mining works carried out within the site and the wider area.
“Unfortunately this could only be achieved by the removal of overlying topsoil within the footprint of roads and dwellings. These investigations are now complete.
“The site benefits from a comprehensive ground investigation with a suite of tests carried out that categorically confirms that the topsoil is not contaminated.
“In order to minimise disturbance to the adjacent residents our contractor used damping down measures to minimise any generation of dust.
“In addition the topsoil stockpiles have been covered. The investigation will inform the current planning application on which we hope planning officers will make a recommendation in the near future.”
A Kirklees Council spokesman said: “We have received complaints from local people about the dust, and have been in touch with the developers about the issue.”
Crossley Fields School did not respond to a request to comment.