Concern grows over ‘risk of explosion and asphyxiation’ at potential Teesside homes development

Contaminants including asbestos could pose ‘risk’. Fear mounts as residents await in-depth results but council says it’s not aware of any issues.

Explosive gases, asbestos fibres and hazardous particles could be buried in land allocated for 96 homes in Norton, Stockton on Tees, the Gazette has reported.

A survey warned that infilled ground on the former Education Centre site on Junction Road could host contaminants posing an “unacceptable risk”.  And now concerned residents want to know answers on what is actually there.

The plans for 96 homes on the former Education Centre site

The report, commissioned by developer Persimmon Homes in September last year, is publicly available on the Council’s Planning Portal.

It warns that construction workers, future residents and neighbours could potentially be at risk from:

  • Inhalation of possible “fugitive” asbestos fibres in the soil
  • Leaching of heavy metal, inorganic and organic contaminants into controlled waters
  • “Asphyxiation and explosion” risks from hazardous ground gases move into buildings
  • Contaminated construction materials leaking into water supply pipes

But nearly a year after that preliminary geological investigation, by Sirius, the results of more detailed tests are still to be released. And fear is now mounting amongst nearby residents as Persimmon edges closer to buying the site from Stockton Council.

Junction Road resident Brian Davis, 66, said:

“Persimmon has done the test drilling, they must have had something back. If there’s nothing there then say there’s nothing there. We just want to know what’s in there and what remedial measures they would do if there’s asbestos or other contaminants.”

The shock report prompted alarm from residents at a recent public meeting organised by Councillors David and Norma Wilburn.

Mr Davis said:

“I said to the councillors ‘you have no right to sell land if it’s contaminated’. If there’s no asbestos there then fair enough. But we need to know what’s in that ground. Someone knows.”

Concerns centre on the eastern half of the site, which was subject to sand mining from the late 1930s until the two large pits were in-filled with building materials by 1951.

The William Newton School was built on the site in 1939 before it reopened as the Education Centre in 1990. It was demolished by Stockton Council in 2015 and the site put on the market.

The Gazette contacted the council over the residents concerns, and a reply came from cabinet member for regeneration and housing, Councillor Nigel Cooke, who said:

“We are not aware of any issues relating to the safety of the Junction Road site. As with any area of land for development, full site analysis and surveys will be undertaken before any building work takes place there.”

Persimmon Homes Teesside has been approached twice for comment but is yet to respond.