Black hole under Belle Vue?

by Owen Temple on December 18, 2012

I don’t know, and apparently neither does the geophysical survey team.

In addition to the shafts outlined above the geophysics survey has detected an anomaly the cause of which cannot be identified. The anomaly is near to BH12 which is located on the northern edge of the pitch at the centre line and will be beneath the proposed building footprint.

That sentence comes from paragraph 6.2 of the Coal Mining Risk Assessment which nestles amongst the many papers attached to the planning application for Belle Vue, and is just one of many issues I have raised directly with the county council. It’s not rumour, its not innuendo. It’s official.

Last week the Advertiser quoted sections of the Contaminated Land Report for Belle Vue. It turns out that this report, like the Mining Risk Assessment, was written in January this year. I complained that I hadn’t previously been informed about it, and now I’ve been told that no-one had been told about it – Cabinet, Chief Executive or humble back-benchers like myself. So that means that the politicians who are driving the decisions on Consett’s Academy are working in ignorance. Only the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) team running the project had ever seen it.

I have sought clarification and reassurance on a good many issues arising from these reports, and have agreed to meet with the structural designer in the New Year to establish the council’s position on them, following which I will report back to you, but here are the crucial ones:

1. Why should I have any confidence in the competence of a contaminated land report which:

  • Shows no recognition that Belle Vue was a tip in an age before most environmental regulations came into force, and appears to make no allowance for that fact which is well known to older local people who remember it
  • States that asbestos has been found in one location in the “Executive Summary” (not seen by the council’s executive!), two locations in another paragraph, “a number of locations” in yet another paragraph and finally concludes “asbestos containing materials may be present in the made ground across the site”.

2. Does the Coal Mining Risk assessment give real cause for concern with:

  • six mine entries onsite or within 20m of the site boundary and the rather ominous note that other unrecorded mine entries may exist
  • an anomaly the cause of which cannot be identified

3. Bearing in mind that on its own calculations the council said that Belle Vue was the most expensive site in terms of “abnormals”, how confident can we be of its budget in the light of the following facts:

  • The original estimates included NIL cost for dealing with contamination
  • The original estimates were that relocating the football club were from £1.325 million to £1.575 million to but I understand its expected cost to be £2.3 million

or are we drifting into a budgetary black hole?

For three and a half years I and others have asked to be provided with facts about the situation, whilst the cabinet and many councillors seemed happier working with rumour and innuendo. Now, with the facts coming to light three and a half years after the decision was taken, the biggest single question is whether the politicians will be man and woman enough to question whether they made the right decision?

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