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Row erupts over contaminated housing site in Belfast

Words: Roger Milne

A row has broken out it in Belfast over proposals from Fold Housing to build more than 200 new homes on what is contaminated land.

Families living close to the location involved, the former Visteon site in west Belfast, are concerned that the NI Planning Service' is not requiring a full environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the development.

WYG, the developer’s environmental consultants, have produced a report which revealed a cocktail of pollutants at the site including nickel, lead and asbestos in the soil and contaminants in the groundwater.

Residents in the area have established a Campaign for the Economic Regeneration of the former Visteon site, insisting the land is unsuitable for residential use. Instead, it should be used for commercial purposes to provide much-needed employment in the area, the group has argued.

The developers have proposed to install a vapour membrane in the foundations of houses to mitigate the risk that volatile organic compounds could be inhaled by people living there.

The Department of the Environment said: "Belfast Area Planning Office has determined, in accordance with the Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (NI) 2012, the application does not require an environmental statement.

"Although the site is contaminated... the applicants have provided contaminated land reports based on extensive investigation.

"As a result, the potential impacts of the contamination are understood and there is a proposed remediation strategy demonstrating these can be managed as part of the development."

Fold Housing is proposing to demolish the existing derelict factory complex and build 244 homes, a community centre and business units at the Finaghy site.