“NLC definitely has a case to answer in this matter, and ongoing responsibilities towards those living in the affected area, but we believe the case against other parties will deliver a quicker positive outcome for our clients.”
Following a hearing on 20th September 2013 at the Scottish Court of Session in Edinburgh, Collins Solicitors has agreed not to pursue North Lanarkshire Council as a Defender in legal proceedings issued against a number of public and private bodies on behalf of 78 residents of Motherwell, making up 42 separate ‘Pursuer’ households, with a view to securing remediation of the land on which their homes are built.
Between July and October 2012 legal proceedings were issued against each of the Defenders, each Pursuer household had a summons ‘signetted’ (issued) and served on its behalf naming City Link Development Company Ltd, Scott Wilson (Scotland) Ltd and NLC as joint Defenders.
Households which include social housing tenants also had an additional summons issued and served on their behalf, against either Lanarkshire Housing Association or Clyde Valley Housing Association.
Proceedings against the additional four Defenders will continue, the case for which will be back before the Court in late 2013.
Des Collins, Senior Partner of Collins Solicitors, representing the residents of Watling Street, commented:
“We have agreed to release NLC from these proceedings, although we know we have a strong case against them. Existing case law is unclear and there was every possibility that the case against NLC would ultimately be determined by the Supreme Court. This was a process which could easily have taken five years. The residents have perfectly adequate cases against the other Defenders, the resolution of which would have been delayed pending any Supreme Court application. This would have been patently unjust. It is against this background only that we have decided not to pursue NLC further. NLC is aware that it had, and continues to have, ongoing ‘Part IIA’ responsibilities – relating to contaminated land investigations – and we welcome the decision of the Council to re-open its investigation and undertake further testing at the Watling Street site. We look forward to receiving the results which are promised, shortly.”
Collins Solicitors has maintained for over three years that the properties were built on land that was not fully remediated following a long history of light and heavy industrial use.
Ground testing on the site, both by NLC and experts appointed by Collins Solicitors, has confirmed the widespread presence of high levels of trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and other toxic solvents. The testing by the Council under Part IIA is continuing in relation to these substances and the results are awaited.
In addition, extensive air quality surveys confirmed that levels of toxic material in the indoor air were far higher than acceptable levels set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Standards.
The Residents suffer from a number of health complaints caused by exposure to these neurotoxic vapours, and exposure to these substances also increases cancer risk.
It is anticipated that the court action on their behalf will be tried as a single test case which will determine:
a) That harmful substances are, have been and/or will be present on the site and that these substances have been found in vapour form in the indoor air of properties on the Watling Street Site.
b) That these substances, on the balance of probabilities, are, have and/or will adversely affect the health of residents and others.
Des Collins continued:
“We are confident that City Link Development Company Ltd and Scott Wilson (Scotland) Ltd will ultimately be held responsible for having failed to ensure the redevelopment of the Watling Street site in the 1990s and that this has resulted in land which is not suitable or safe for residential use. The housing associations have failed to provide housing fit for human habitation. We anticipate that the test case will demonstrate the extent of the problem and the need for extensive remediation.”
It is alleged that City Link Developments Ltd and supervised by Scott Wilson (Scotland) Ltd in the 1990s and 2000s were inadequate and failed to clean up contaminated waste from a former Ministry of Supply / light and heavy industrial site.
It is also alleged that North Lanarkshire Council failed to ensure that the remediation programme was adequate and that it would result in land safe for residential land use. The former site had handled and processed toxic metals and chemicals.
Materials found at the site include trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE) polychloranated biphenols, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, VOCs as well as high concentrations of phytotoxic heavy metals.
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