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(en) Britain, Direct Action* #35 - A Dangerous Development

Date Thu, 25 Aug 2005 09:45:31 +0300

It is proposed that 650 homes and a children’s nursery be built
on the site of the Turner & Newall factory in the Spodden Valley,
Rochdale, where asbestos was produced for over 100 years. Despite
this, the developer’s report, submitted to Rochdale council, stated
‘of particular note is the absence of any asbestos contamination’.
This is somewhat surprising given that exposed asbestos waste can
be found on the surface of the abandoned site, and this has been
witnessed by the local MP and councillors. Furthermore, former
workers witnessed, over a number of years, the dumping of
thousands of tonnes of asbestos into an old coalmine located within
the proposed development. This is confirmed by Turner &
Newall’s own records which show that by 1957, an average of
300 tonnes of dust were dumped on the site each year. Given the
extent of contamination, it must have taken days for the developers
to find a suitably uncontaminated scrap of land to test.

Should the Spodden Valley development go ahead there’s no
doubt that it will cost lives. Inhaling even small amounts of asbestos
can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer. After years of denial the
Health & Safety Executive has been forced to admit that there is no
safe minimum exposure to asbestos. Nor is it just those living nearby
that are at risk. Two million asbestos fibres can fit upon a pin head
and once airborne they can travel for miles. Scientific reports
estimate that living within 2km of a source of asbestos dust may
increase the risk of cancer by up to ten times. Yet the developers
plan to demolish 30,000 tonnes of asbestos factory, crush it into
rubble on site, and use it for foundations releasing clouds of asbestos
dust in the process. Unused rubble will be transported by road
creating yet more contamination.

The risk the development poses to the local population was
acknowledged by a Health & Safety commissioner and former
Turner & Newall manager, who called the felling of tress and
disturbance of soil on the site ‘sheer madness’, and
suggested that ‘with the potential amount of asbestos on the
site, no development should be built’. The fact that the
government and council did not force Turner & Newall to clear the
site of asbestos before selling it to property developers is an outrage.
To allow development on land awash with asbestos waste is to
further risk the lives of local people who, for generations, have had to
live with the horror of asbestos production. It is time for asbestos
deaths in the area to stop.

Local people have started the ‘Save Spodden Valley
Campaign’ to get the site cleared of asbestos before any
development goes ahead. Following a recent meeting with local
CWU reps the union has backed the campaign. The CWU has
agreed that members with both postal and telecommunications jobs
would be at risk, either when delivering mail or working to establish
communication services.

Contact the campaign on 01706 644774 or at

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