Scientist warns about toxins threat as homes planned for Brighton gasworks site

Dangerous toxins could harm people in Brighton if plans to build homes on an old gasworks go ahead, a scientist has warned councillors.

Keeley Bignal said toxins such as lead, asbestos and benzopyrene could be released into the atmosphere from the Marina Way site, near Brighton Marina.

Dr Bignal said that people living near a similar scheme in Southall, in London, were taking legal action after reporting increases in cases of asthma, nausea, chest pain and cancer.

Like the Brighton gasworks proposal, the scheme in Southall has been developed by St William, a joint venture between National Grid and the Berkeley Group.

Dr Bignal said: “As a resident and environmental scientist, I cannot express how concerned I am about the release of these toxins into the atmosphere, given the nature of the development, a high-rise with deep foundations and excavations.

“I worry about whether my little boy play safely in the garden and my neighbour’s baby just born.”

She shared her concerns at a Brighton and Hove City Council meeting on Thursday (17 December).

At a virtual meeting of the full council, Dr Bignal asked whether councillors would rather toxic chemicals were locked in the ground or leaking into people’s homes.

She asked Green councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones if new homes were more important than people and if she thought that the toxins should stay in the ground.

Councillor Hugh-Jones said that any work on the gasworks site would be highly regulated by both the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency.

She said: “I really appreciate your concerns and fears. I can assure you the protection of residents’ health and safety remains a top priority for the council, particularly when it comes to remediating a contaminated site like the Brighton Gasworks.

“This is also a site which should be capable of being remediated safely. We would like to it see redeveloped for much-needed homes and jobs.”

She said that any application would receive the full scrutiny of council officials and the council’s Planning Committee but she was willing to learn more about potential risks.

  1. John Walsh Reply

    Regarding the Gasworks, Jenrick will approve the Developers wishes, should this Council turn the initial plans down.
    This I however doubt, I still remember with absolute Disgust this Council allowing Starbucks to do as they wished in St James Street.
    So I expect no difference with the Gasworks Site.

  2. BAHTAG Reply

    Dr. Bignal is clearly well-meaning with regard to her concerns about the polluted Brighton gas-works site – but as the scientist she is she needs to recognise that much more research is needed to build her case for safe decontamination of the site.

    Initial research should show that our City Council is the public body least likely to act in a helpful manner, as indicated by the comments above by John Walsh, and by whatever research she cares to conduct into contentious Planning Applications approved by our Council and/or by Councillors on its Planning Committee, since 1997.

    And bearing in mind the decades-long scandal of Brighton Corporation never cleaning-up the toxic-waste dump in Sheepcote Valley.

    And the incompetence of our Council since 1997 in apparently failing to engage with specialised remediation contractors, who could clean-up Sheepcote at the lowest cost; based on the profit to be made from recovery of the amounts of various metals buried in the dump, and on the enormous increase in land-value when a clean site can be used to build the social-rented housing that our City urgently needs!

    And a specific piece of worthwhile research would be to examine the Council’s files (+ those of the Env Agency & Southern Gas Networks) about the clean-up of the Hove Gas-works site on Church Rd, where Tesco now stands.

    And following on from that then Freedom of Information & Environmental Information Regulations requests to those public bodies with regard to the Brighton Gas-works site (and including sight of all records of exchanges to date with Berkeley Homes, who are no strangers to controversy!).

    And the Big Daddy of them all from which to learn is the Greenwich peninsula site, where the O2 Arena now stands, which cost us taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds to be cleaned-up!

    Very likely a greater cost than that gas-works ever made in profit over the decades of its producing coal-gas (which has to be a warning to our Gov’t in it’s dash for nuclear power ‘at any price’- given that our country’s inability to safely neutralise nuclear waste is exemplified by the ponds of nuclear waste from Japanese reactors blighting Cumbria, because some muppet (or crook?) thought a profit could be made by re-processing nuclear waste for other nations! But no profit was achieved, and UK taxpayers have been saddled with the costs of storing such waste for centuries to come! Indeed, nowhere in the world has a full-size nuclear reactor yet been entirely cleaned-up!).

    So the brave Dr. Bignal needs all the support that can be given to progress her excellent challenge, surely?

  3. Peter Challis Reply

    So they need to take care when they remove the contaminated topsoil. I wonder how much of the existing toxins get blown into the air every time current occupants of the land drive their vehicles in and out of the site?

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