When site licensing for waste disposal sites was introduced following The Control of Pollution Act 1974 , it was hailed as a means of preventing pollution from occurring. It was however a false dawn and an utter failure. Site licences were issued by The West Midlands County Council from 1977 with an SL prefix, then number attached. Some of these were “contentious licences” in that they were subject to legal arguments between those applying for them and the regulatory authority.
Licences referred to different authorisations of facility- landfill, subterranean disposal, treatment plant, transfer station or incinerators.
In a report written in 1978 as part of a structure plan for the county, it is revealed that the area covered 89,000 hectares (22,000 acres), with approximately 9,000 industrial manufacturing companies. It notes “Many of these industrial processes, such as chemical and metal finishing, give rise to a wide range of wastes, which include highly toxic materials.”
It estimated from the survey that the West Midlands industry produced approximately 2,500,000 tonnes of waste! Of this some 480,000 tonnes were “hazardous wastes. “
The largest amount of waste it notes came from the Sandwell area in the form of foundry sand being produced from the manufacture of castings and slags from iron and steel production.
Numerous site licences had been issued at the time of the report to private sector concerns, and are noted by area and type in the table below.
As has been seen by the wording of many of the WMCC licences , including SL31 for rattlechain lagoon, the interpretation of these were very ambiguous and poor. They didn’t do the job that they were supposed to.
Following the demise of the WMCC in 1986, Walsall Council run “West Midlands Hazardous Waste Unit” took over the role issuing more licences , and then from 1990 The Environment Agency came on the scene. When many of these industries using these infernal sites went bust, they were mothballed and forgotten about, some long after the disastrous idiots at the WMCC had departed.
As time went on, these SL licences were renumbered, some becoming environmental permits, and many of the conditions as well as chemicals deposited into them were forgotten. Even worse in recent times, the records were removed from public scrutiny by the EA on their “what’s in your backyard website”. This coincided with the drive to build more homes on these dire “brownfield” contaminated and polluted unsuitable sites and the new national planning policy framework did little to stop that, in fact it directly encouraged it.
This lack of historic record is truly frightening, but tailored to the liars and conmen in the housing development industry where 50cm of topsoil can “cure” all of the contamination underneath from the past . The calls to “relax” the planning laws are made by those who will profit directly from building new houses. None of these people would ever choose to live in a house built on one of these SL sites, or anywhere near them. THEY ARE NOT “SAFE” .
Coming by historic landfill information has never been more difficult, and I have come across it time after time locally that people who have bought houses on or near to these sites are clueless as to what was there before, and were NOT informed by the developer crooks who sold them the house as to what it was formerly built upon. It appears to suit the equally crooked solicitor industry that such information is obtainable by them for a large fee.
Unfortunately the political class appear intent on “brownfield first”. Those such as Andy Street, the non wanted metro Mayor of a poor man’s reinvention of the WMCC and others living in the more affluent areas of South Staffordshire and Wolverhampton, (and if they really think that they have “made it”, Malvern or the Derbyshire Dales), witter on about “their precious” greenbelt. They appear to think that the black country should take all the new houses and that the cancerous contaminated land is somehow “ripe for development” or “shovel ready”. Of course the Tories want to land bank in their voting homelands whilst foisting new build targets into Labour dominated overpopulated areas. Labour on the other hand are intent on allowing building on their sites because of their total mismanagement of public funds over many years, blamed on the cuts and austerity, so take the Conservative Government handouts when they are given for allowing more building on unsuitable “brownfield”. Council tax is raised by new house building, but little new infrastructure appears, thus restarting the drive to sell off more land. We appear to be divided by the political classes “greenbelt”- it is phoney concept and an invisible line introduced by those who want to keep these divisions and the common out.
Take for example the recently announced land sell off deal between Severn Trent Water- one of the worst regional environmental polluters in the area, Sandwell council and The West Midlands Combined authority. Land off Friar Park is set to be turned into housing , but I wonder what the environmental surveys will find in the drive to protect the purse strings of the green belt last zealots?
Many of the SL licenced “brownfield” sites- former toxic waste dumps, transfer stations and landfill sites in disused marl pits have already been re-landscaped or built on top of to hide the former use, and some have greened over producing a “greenbelt” for wildlife in the urban areas, bulging with over human population. None of the main parties who call for “brownfield first” are friends of urban wildlife or their habitats, but somehow see wildlife as a convenient pawn to stop development in their own affluent areas. WELL HERE’S SOME NEWS YOU SELFISH SWINE- IT DOESN’T JUST LIVE IN “THE COUNTRYSIDE” WHERE YOU LIVE.
It is a disgusting statistic that Half of England is owned by less than 1% of the population , just morally wrong. The Duchy of Cornwall estate for example owned by Prince Charles has an area of around 135,000 acres, that’s plenty of space to build some new council estates.
Yet what Andy Street and co do not appear to appreciate is that many of the “brownfield” sites that they want to build on in the West Midlands have already seen houses built right up to the fence line of a previous landfill past, as though the pollution somehow stopped there at a flimsy chain link fence, and that digging up a site over 40 years after it was abandoned is somehow “safe” just because some liar of a consultant and their made up laboratory reports appear to find no contamination of concern. Of course when you know from the site licences and anecdotal evidence what was tipped in there and in what quantities, and how the site was “restored” ,if at all, these laboratory reports must be bloody magic, as all of the contaminated materials appear to have mysteriously disappeared with time.
- How are people going to be protected from these areas being dug up with chemicals coming to the surface and into the air, or through polluted groundwater?
- Did they buy their homes near to a licensed site, only later to find out that it is on some “call for sites” list?
- What effect will such developments have on people who have medical health conditions such as asthma?
- Silica dust/asbestos fibres and the like is not stopped by a flimsy screen or watering the dust thrown up out of the ground. But it will also not show itself in terms of impacting on human health for many decades, after the consultants ,the dodgy developers and the political facilitators are long gone.
And do not for one moment be fooled by the political classes boasts about “innovative technology” being able to “clean up” these sites. I saw first hand one of these contaminated brownfield areas strewn with toxic barrels and spewing waste being “cleaned up” by “ultra heat treatment”, only to see it disappear down a brook course, into a pool and then funnelled away via the River Tame. It’s effect on wildfowl was devastating, but the EA and the council just looked the other way having achieved their task of removing the contamination from their flagship new housing estate. The company behind this and their “technology” were a total fraud.
In an attempt to stop this, I have started a list of historic landfill SL sites in The West Midlands County, in the hope that anyone reading this for a specific location can make enquires and find out more about what was dumped at a particular site near to their homes. Once you have the location and the SL site number, it then becomes easier to find out more information about the chemicals that were allowed to be tipped there.
It is possible to ask a Local Authority and The Environment Agency for these licences via a Freedom of Information Act/Environmental information regulations Act request, especially given that they still hold them but clearly do not publish them for the reasons of protecting the crooked housing developer industry as highlighted above. Join the website whatdotheyknow.com whereby the information and these licences will then be put in the public domain, instead of hidden away in a civil servant shills filing cabinet.
Here are the direct links to asking the 7 local WM authorities questions about these contaminated land sites.
Of these, Walsall is by far the most open with their historic dumping past, and some of the old licences appear on their website, though are not complete.
AND HERE IS THE DIRECT LINK TO ASK QUESTIONS OF THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCY.
A sample request can be found HERE. Just copy and paste and substitute the site licence and area involved.
The Doomwatch spreadsheet below shows the SL site number, operator and location of their issue. This is not an exhaustive list, but I have spent a great deal of time on it using different primary sources. It is a work in progress and will be added to on a page on this website as and when more information comes to light. I have also obtained some of the original licences and the links to these are available. N.B Not all of these sites are comparable in terms of danger. Some tips did not contain “hazardous wastes”, but with the licences so vaguely worded it was possible to exploit this, and it also does not account for what was dumped there BEFORE the licence was issued. Generally, the earlier ones passed by the WMCC were the worst of the lot and the most contaminated.
I will over the course of the next few months be looking at some of these SL licences and the contentious issues surrounding them, and what remains of these areas today. Unfortunately, the politicians think that time has made people forget what’s in their backyard and what lies beneath- well fuck you suckers, you are going to have a hard time from me to ruin your little house building schemes.
This website will always campaign against building houses on top of contaminated areas, and anywhere near to them such as those next to Rattlechain lagoon and producing so called “garden cities” and “urban villages”. These terms are political spin, from people who would not themselves ever choose to live or bring up their families anywhere near to a former WMCC licensed landfill site.