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Talking Rubbish ?

Talking Rubbish?For some time, Fylde Council has been running down its St David's Road North Depot.

Its recent history has been chequered. Currently, it has a few of the council's gardening staff in residence, and some bin lorries have been spotted going in and out (bins are being stored there). But previously, it has housed: bin lorries; the Council's youth employment / job creation / adult training scheme, and probably most notably, for many years, it was the main depot for the Lancashire County Council road workmen based in Fylde and working on our roads.

The site began life as a gasworks - originally part of a block of what was then called 'Corporation Land' that stretched from what is now Press Road (just to the Blackpool side of St Leonard's Road)  and ran along between the Railway and Saint David's Road North to the junction with Heeley Road.

Map of Corporation Land

The few houses that were built opposite the site (across St David's Road North) at the time of this map are on Cross Street today.

Over time, parts of the land have changed use or been sold. The St David's Grove housing estate was built in the middle of the land, and the former Vehicle Maintenance Unit on Heeley Road - (abandoned when the former Commissar decided to move Fylde's vehicle maintenance to a depot on an industrial estate in Poulton le Fylde) - was eventually sold to a developer who has since done nothing with it.

Back in 2007, in 'The Great January Sale', we reported that the site had been formally put 'up for sale' by former Chief Executive Ken Lee and John Coombes as a way to fund their foolish white elephant  'Accommodation Project'.

But there was a problem. Previous uses of the land (from times before the Health and Safety Act) have left a legacy which today is classed as unacceptable contamination of the ground. In all probability, it is too contaminated to build on without a huge cost to excavate the existing ground and dispose of the contamination. That will put the site beyond the reach of most developers.

We know one who, in 2006, was offered the site for just 1  if he undertook to clean up the contamination in the ground.

He declined, and the sale process went very quiet.

But recently, since David Eaves changed the nature of the accommodation project to something more affordable, Fylde has been hawking it around again with renewed vigour (there's probably also no-one left who remembers the previous ill-fated attempt to sell it).

So to some extent, it's understandable they don't want to have to spend too much looking after the site if they're going to sell it soon.

But we think that in this context,  'soon' will be a lot longer in the future than most people would expect the word to mean. That is unless they can find someone like a Registered Social Landlord who can tap into the Government's 'Silly Spends' pocket and have the de-contamination costs met by a big Government grant. (And even there the Government are struggling for cash at the moment).

So we think it's likely to be a while before anything happens.

And the gradual abandonment of the depot that we have seen over the last 20 years or so, has resulted in an accumulation of rubbish on the site which - quite naturally - folk living and working around the area are not too happy about.

Rubbish on the Site

You can see from the picture where the rubbish has been allowed to accumulate, some of it has been there so long it's grassing over.

We know of complaints - (both by members of the public and by elected councillors) -  made to FBC about the untidy state of the land, and concerns about the public health risk of rats etc that have been made, literally, for years. Cllr Tony Ford of nearby Ashton Ward has raised it more than once to our knowledge.

Then someone noticed there was asbestos amongst the rubbish and after a complaint about this, a chap was sent in to clear it.

According to residents, when this happened, a worker and a van appeared and, protected only with a face mask over his mouth, he threw the small broken bits of asbestos that were strewn about the depot site into the back of a van Asbestos on the Siteand took it away.

But he didn't deal with any of the full sheets of the corrugated asbestos that had been dumped and remained on the site after they had been removed from the roof of one of the buildings there.

However, in April 2011, Cllr Carol Lanyon, a newly elected St Anne's on the Sea Town Councillor for St Leonard's Ward (in which the depot falls), took up the complaint of a local lady. She contacted FBC and said the depot site needed cleaning up generally, and the asbestos removing.

The Council's Director Of Strategic Development Services, Paul Walker told her "As you may be aware the council has plans to dispose of the depot in the near future. We have previously tidied the site and been monitoring the situation with regard to the storage of materials. We have made contact with [the resident] and left a message on her answerphone to advise that the asbestos sheeting will be removed."

But, by August, nothing had happened, despite Cllr Lanyon chasing up the matter.

So when another resident (and counterbalance reader) contacted her to say it was like living on a refuse dump, it was time for something more drastic. You can follow this link to see the sort of rubbish he was talking about.

The local press were contacted and published the story.

This resulted in the best example of a wholly incompetent FBC press statement we have ever had the misfortune to read.

We've wrapped the quotes around the photo to emphasize the point

In the LSA Express of 11 August 2011 we were: "reassured that there was no danger to health from work being carried out there"

'Corrugated asbestos sheets degradingThe council denied it was dumping and said it was clearing the site up before it is put back on the market for sale'

'A council spokesman said: "There is no truth whatsoever that we are using it for dumping"

"We have had to remove a variety of types of waste"

'The spokesman added "There's absolutely no asbestos whatsoever. There are some concrete sheets which somebody might have mistaken for asbestos. We can categorically say that. We are not allowed to store it by law"

In the same article the council even denied the existence of fridges being dumped on the site.

That terminological inexactitude can best be illustrated by following this link to the photo sheet accompanying this article

Now, pretty clearly, the statement isn't right. There is a great deal of rubbish stored on the site. There was damaged corrugated asbestos roofing in at least two places, there were fridges with the doors still on (that's particularly dangerous because youngsters enticed into in an abandoned depot by the prospect of attractive danger can easily shut themselves inside and suffocate). And there were probably escaping pollutant gases from the refrigeration system .

Sadly, in this world of spin that Fylde's officers now inhabit, you can't tell who it was that gave the completely incorrect statement. The personal accountability which - in the past - would have shown up the incompetence of the officer concerned, and resulted in at least a strong talking to (if not more serious disciplinary action), has long since vanished under the guise of the 'Press Spokesman'

So with no action in sight, contact was made with the Health and Safety Executive in Manchester. We're told they investigated and reminded Fylde of its responsibilities.

Last week the asbestos was moved. Our reader asked Fylde what had been done and passed the reply on to us. He was told:

"The sheets were concrete asbestos based sheets that were commonly used for roofing years ago. This form of asbestos is only potentially harmful if broken up and even then there is a low risk of the fibres inside the cement being released.

The sheets were found concealed and most of them wrapped on site.

Arrangements were made for 3 men and 2 five ton skips to remove the waste.  The correct Personal Protective Equipment was ordered for the job which included suits masks and gloves.  Strong waterproof plastic sheeting was provided to properly line the skips.

A risk assessment was carried out and a full briefing of the procedure for handling asbestos based products. The risk assessments and handling procedures were signed by the three employees to confirm that they understood the procedure.

The skips were lined with the plastic sheeting ensuring there was enough to overlap and cover the asbestos based sheets when loaded. After being loaded the sheets were covered with the overlap and sealed with strong duct tape so there no chance of leakage or tear.

The 2 skips were transported to Clifton Marsh landfill for disposal, the site was contacted in advance to ensure the waste could be handled properly and the hazard waste consignment note completed and sent to the Disposal authority.

The driver of the vehicle was provided with appropriate protective equipment and safety briefing as well as the procedures for the landfill site.

The disposal was in accordance with hazardous waste handling regulations that the local authority is familiar with and has applied on many occasions. "

Now, if all that palaver was necessary to ensure safety, you have to wonder who it is that hasn't been out of their Ivory Tower to have a look around.

"The sheets were found concealed"  indeed, they were only concealed from eyes that were not looking! And we also wonder about the chap who on a previous occasion, was sent in with just the face mask and a van when he cleared up some of the smaller, loose bits of asbestos that were lying around.

But at least the asbestos has gone now.

The other good news for locals is that the fridges were removed in the middle of this week as well.

As for the rest of the rubbish all over the site, well, that's still there. Fylde doesn't have a legal obligation to clear that from its own land, and it long ago abandoned common sense and good practice in favour of being policy driven, so we don't expect too much.

Nor can we expect them to stop the spin we so dislike anytime soon. The concluding paragraph of Fylde's reply says

"The site has been leased to a number of different tenants over the years and has been left unoccupied for some time. It has not been possible to identify which of the previous tenants left the waste on the site."

This may well be entirely factual. But it gives the incorrect impression that 'the tenants' have been nothing to do with Fylde, when they were in fact, Fylde's direct labour force, Fylde's Adult Training Scheme, or Lancashire County Council employees. The responsibility for seeing that any so called 'tenants' left the site in a clean and tidy condition would be whose exactly?

Clearly we're not supposed to think it's Fylde. They only own  and control the site.

So will the rest of the rubbish be cleared?  Probably not in the short term if previous experience is anything to go by.

It's a short sighted view of course, because someone will have to clear it up, and either Fylde pays now, or the new buyer (if they can find one) pays them a sum that will already have been reduced by the whatever the new owner will have to pay for cleaning up the rubbish himself.

So it's a cost that has to be met at some point - and it will be met by Fylde one way or the other, so we're struggling to see why they don't do it now.

Perhaps if someone with enough seniority actually went and had a look, they'd stop talking such rubbish.....

Until then, local people have cause to be grateful to Councillors like Mrs Lanyon who, one way or another, is having an impact.

Dated:  26 August 2011


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