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Cambridge Evening News - ‎07. August 2009‎

'This could be a catastrophe if things go wrong'

A FORMER agrochemical site could become a housing complex in the future, despite fears groundwater pollution could make it a "new Corby".

Demolition work, a clean-up operation, and creation of a protective layer to seal the land - called a development platform - at the former Bayer CropScience site in Hauxton have received approval.

But plans for up to 380 properties there - which would fund the cost of getting the site ready and double the size of the village - have been refused.

Councillors said too few affordable homes were included in the plan produced by Harrow Estates, which is expected to put in a new application.

The 15-hectare complex, which was used for the production and testing of agrochemicals for more than 65 years until its closure in 2003, has leeched waste into surrounding groundwater.

At a meeting of South Cambridgeshire District Council's planning committee, Cllr Deborah Roberts urged members to reject both proposals.

She used to work at the site and said the proposed remediation - involving the excavation, treatment and return of 250,000 cubic metres of materials - was "completely inadequate" and could put families at risk.

She said: "This is potentially an enormous catastrophe for the council if it goes wrong . . .

"This site should never have been considered for housing and I would never buy a house there."

Cllr Roberts warned the council it could find itself in the same position as Corby Borough Council, which was found to be negligent in the redevelopment of a former steelworks that has been linked to birth defects.

Previously granted consent for the works was quashed last October when the council conceded its environmental impact assessment had not been up to scratch.

Harrow Estates insisted no homes would be built until the site was safe, and the redevelopment was backed by Hauxton Parish Council and Cllr Janet Lockwood, who represents the village on the district council.

She said: "Our main concern is that the site is cleaned up and this is possibly the only opportunity we have."

Remediation was passed by eight votes to six, but the homes plan - also including commercial and retail space - was rejected by the same margin.

Councillors said it was unacceptable only a 70-unit "extra care" facility had been offered as affordable housing by the developer, which cited the cost of remediation as the reason more could not be built. chris.havergal@cambridge-news.co.uk