I noted with some amusement on Friday that the planned scheme to build nearly a hundred dwellings on the business park on the corner of Lindon Road and Coppice Road in Walsall Wood had been abandoned. This project has been subject of a lengthy legal battle between Walsall Council and the developers, owners of Brownhills Business Park, Ashtenne Industrial Fund, stretching back a good couple of years.
I’m not certain of the reason for the sudden change of heart, but I’ve always had the feeling that the owners never realised that they’d purchased a site that contained two former mine shafts from the Walsall Wood Colliery – which had since been filled with hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic waste. Selling any houses built on the site – which must be heavily contaminated from the mining activities alone – was always going to be a hard pitch locally, particularly to those mindful of the stench and accidents caused by the former operators, Effluent Disposal and it’s subsequent companies.
Whilst welcoming this outbreak of common sense, I do wonder what awaits the site, and the now up for sale adjacent property, currently owned by Veolia, the former custodians of the hazardous waste operation. Together they encompass a very large package of land, which must surely be tempting to other chancers with an eye on a quick developmental buck. Let us hope and purchasers are aware of what lies beneath the soil of their prospective purchase.
These industrial premises must surely represent one of the most potentially contaminated and problematic patches of land in Walsall Wood. Of course, Shelfield and Stubbers Green could write the book on this, hosting as it does at least four current or historic landfills and a similar mine infilling operation. It is important that our council and regulatory bodies maintain adequate records for these sites – many of which took place in the barely-regulated times of the sixties and early seventies. We need to take a proactive stance on development in such areas, to make sure developers cannot ignore the dirty secrets burried by fly-by-night waste operators of a less conscious time.
Sadly, with current cuts in government bodies like the Environment Agency, and relaxation of planning laws, I’m not optimistic.