Glasgow & West Scotland

Motherwell couple start legal action over 'toxic homes'

Toxic sign
Image caption Watling Street estate residents claims toxic land has affected their health

A couple from North Lanarkshire have launched legal action against a housing association over fears their home was built on toxic land.

Angela and Robert McManus live on the Watling Street estate in Motherwell, which has a history of industrial use.

They claim the site was never properly decontaminated and is responsible for a number of health complaints.

Their legal action against Lanarkshire Housing Association aims to establish there is a problem which needs action.

The Watling Street estate was previously occupied by factories and industrial plants.

Council tests

Since new housing was built in the 1990s some local people have blamed their illnesses on possible contaminated land.

Collins Solicitors, which represents 43 families in and around the estate, including Mr and Mrs McManus, has been in dispute with North Lanarkshire Council over the issue.

In October 2010, the council told residents said it had found traces of trichloroethylene (TCE) - a potentially harmful chemical - in open ground close to homes in Forum Place, Romulus Court, Empire Way and Tiber Avenue.

Collins Solicitors later said tests it commissioned found the presence of potentially harmful chemicals which "far exceed stipulated safe levels".

It said analysis of air samples, taken from 20 properties in and around Forum Place revealed a significant number of chlorinated compounds and petroleum products (in particular Toluene) in the properties' indoor air.

Last May, the council published the results of a second batch of tests which found there was "no evidence to date to suggest significant health risks" on the estate.

The study recommended further investigations be conducted as a "precaution".

Collins Solicitors also commissioned a second batch of tests which it said showed there were health risks to clients on the estate.

In August last year, the council published the results of a third batch of tests which it said showed the ground was safe and there was "no evidence" that "significant harm" could come from the land on which the estate was built.

'Test case'

Collins Solicitors is now handling legal action on behalf of Mr and Mrs McManus, which it said would be a "test case" to establish whether there harmful substances are present at the site and are causing health problems.

Des Collins, from Collins Solicitors, said: "All along we have warned that if the residents were not able to secure voluntary remediation of the site, legal action would follow.

"The properties are unfit for human habitation - the neuro-toxic vapours are making the residents ill.

"Lanarkshire Housing Association, as landlord to a number of residents on the estate, is responsible for the provision of accommodation which meets basic standards."

Mr Collins said there was "a possibility" that other organisations could also face legal action over the issue, including North Lanarkshire Council, City Link Development Company and Clyde Valley Housing Association.

Lanarkshire Housing Association was contacted by the BBC and asked for a comment. It has, as yet, not replied.

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