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Willenhall contaminated housing claims will be fought by council

Council bosses say they will defend the authority against any legal claims made against them from residents living in Willenhall estates that were once classed as contaminated.

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Kemble Close in Willenhall, where land was believed to have been contaminated for more than a decade

In January, Walsall Council’s cabinet took a decision to revoke the ‘identification of contaminated land’ status on the Stonegate and Trent Park estates, based on the former Willenhall Gasworks.

But residents said the issue had hung over them for more than a decade and their lives had been put on hold due to the contamination status of their properties.

Since the decision was taken, the authority has been working with residents to answer questions, address concerns and issuing advice on safely growing produce in their gardens.

In a report to cabinet tomorrow, officers say residents have been making enquiries about compensation and getting council tax reductions.

The authority said it will continue to support residents throughout the whole process.

The report said: “The council has received a number of queries from residents and their representatives seeking compensation.

“As with any compensation claim, it is important that the person claiming compensation is clear as to what they are claiming compensation for.

“Persons wishing to pursue this should seek their own legal advice and decide whether or not to proceed.

“The council believes it has acted in the interest of residents during this complex and technical matter.

“Therefore should any claim be submitted to the council it will uphold its position through any process which may follow."

The report adds: “The council has received queries from residents regarding a potential reduction or rebate of council tax.

“Such requests are for residents to consider their case and submit an application to the council accordingly; should applications be received they will be assessed on their own merit and against well-established criteria.

“Decisions will be made on consideration of applications and assessment criteria with responses provided to residents on an individual basis.“

The issue has hung over residents for 12 years and the land was formally designated as contaminated by the authority, as a result of information they had at the time, in 2012.

A legal battle then occurred after the authority served a remediation notice on the original developers, with the council arguing they were responsible for clearing up the site.

But an appeal against the notice was submitted and a public inquiry was launched in 2015. In 2017, the secretary of state for environment quashed the remediation notice.

The department also concluded there were weaknesses in the original determination and that assessments did not meet their risk guidelines.

Walsall Council subsequently hired Land Quality Management Ltd to conduct further surveys on the land and, in January, they concluded the area was not contaminated after all.

By Gurdip Thandi

Local Democracy Reporter

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