Cannock Chase Council’s Cabinet has agreed that nominations from its housing list can be submitted to occupy 48 dwellings owned by Walsall Housing Group that have been unoccupied since Axil Integrated Services raised safety concerns about their proximity to its hazardous waste site at Walkmill Lane in Bridgtown, Cannock.
The dwellings, part of the Chenet Chase Development of 111 residential dwellings including 55 for social housing, were built by Galliford Try following the granting of planning permission by the Council in January 2016 after consultation with statutory bodies the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service.
In July 2017, with construction under way, Axil presented a technical report raising safety concerns about the houses being built on this established brownfield site.
During the past two years the Council, Walsall Housing Group, Galliford Try, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Environment Agency have been discussing Axil`s concerns to understand the nature of the risks the company is concerned about and how best to mitigate against these.
At today’s Cabinet meeting (13 June) councillors heard about a series of non-statutory mitigations Walsall Housing Group is prepared to implement. This has given councillors the confidence that nominations can now be made, on the condition that the additional risk mitigations are successfully installed. Occupation of the dwellings would be undertaken on a phased basis.
The specific risk mitigations noted by councillors, some of which will be subject to planning consent, are:
- The installation of a 4m high Heatshield along the entire boundary with Axil Integrated Services
- The fitting of water sprinklers to plots 51-68 (apartment block) and plots 40-50 (houses) on the Axil boundary perimeter
- The removal of two car parking spaces along the boundary with Axil to reduce fire risk
- The installation of gated access to the apartment block to reduce fire risk on the Axil boundary
- That a quarterly review meeting is held with all key stakeholders on an ongoing basis to review and monitor risk issues and take any appropriate actions for further risk mitigation
The Cabinet has approved a grant of up to £100,000 in relation to the 48 vacant
dwellings from the New Homes Bonus Earmarked Reserve subject to the properties being brought back into use and that Walsall Housing Group implement the additional risk mitigations.
Cabinet has agreed that any individual on the Council’s housing list who is offered a property at Chenet Chase will be made fully aware of all the risk information beforehand and if they refuse, this will not affect their housing application status.
Cabinet was also in agreement that consideration be given to setting up a Resident Liaison Group to ensure that all residents (private or in social housing) are kept up to date with developments on and around the site.
Finally, Cabinet approved a proposal to send a letter to Axil Integrated Services requesting that the company considers the installation of a Hydrogen Cyanide Sensor (HCN) as a further and non-statutory risk mitigation to promote public safety. The installation of a sensor was recommended in a technical report produced for Walsall Housing Group by AECOM in December 2018.
Tony McGovern, Managing Director of Cannock Chase Council said: “This is a significant step forward in trying to resolve the current issues at the Chenet Chase development. We are grateful for the support of our partners, and particularly to Walsall Housing Group in supporting the range of measures designed to provide a sustainable way forward and allow occupation of the vacant dwellings”.
Gary Fulford, Group Chief Executive at whg, said: “The safety of our customers is whg’s number one priority. Once we were made aware of concerns raised by Axil Integrated Services (formerly Augean) we took the decision not to let these homes until we understood the issues in full.
“We have since discussed the safety concerns in depth with Cannock Chase District Council, the developer Galliford Try Partnerships, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Environment Agency and of course Axil themselves.
“In addition to this, we have sourced considerable independent challenge and specialist advice to give our Board assurance and to enable them to fully understand the picture of risk, its likelihood and opportunities for mitigation.
“A key element of this assurance was gained from Axil’s explicit confirmation and sharing of evidence that they run a safe and fully compliant operation, which in turn has been supported by the HSE.
“All of this work, together with the decision by the Council’s Cabinet in relation to a series of non-statutory mitigation measures proposed by whg, mean families will soon be able to live in these affordable, new and most importantly, safe homes.”