Finaghy residents' dismay at plans to build homes on contaminated Visteon site
Families living close to the former Visteon site in west Belfast are shocked by the Planning Service's handling of controversial plans to build more than 200 homes on what is currently contaminated land.
The Planning Service has said it does not require Fold Housing to provide an environmental statement with its planning application, despite the presence of serious pollutants on the land.
A report by Fold Housing's consultants WYG revealed pollutants present include nickel, lead and asbestos in the soil and contaminants in the groundwater.
A number of the pollutants are assessed as presenting an "unacceptable risk" to controlled water and health of people on the site.
The report proposes a series of remedial works to be carried out to soils and groundwater so that they are "not capable of causing significant risks to both on-site human health site users and off-site controlled water receptors".
But the Campaign for the Economic Regeneration of the former Visteon site insists it is clearly toxic and unsuitable for residential use. Instead, it should be used for commercial purposes to provide much-needed employment in the area, the group said.
Spokesman Patrick Crossan said: "This is an extremely contaminated site and the volume and wide range of significant human health issues are shocking.
"Given the hazardous public health risks on the site, it is not suitable for residential use. A decontaminated site is suitable for commercial use, as is the case with The Gasworks."
The report proposes installing a vapour membrane in the foundations of houses to mitigate the risk that volatile organic compounds could be inhaled by people living there. But Mr Crossan warned that no one can be 100% certain that this membrane wouldn't get punctured during construction.
The DoE said: "Belfast Area Planning Office has determined, in accordance with the Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (NI) 2012, the application does not require an environmental statement.
"Although the site is contaminated... the applicants have provided contaminated land reports based on extensive investigation.
"As a result, the potential impacts of the contamination are understood and there is a proposed remediation strategy demonstrating these can be managed as part of the development."
The Visteon factory closed in 2009 with the loss of more than 200 jobs.
It remains empty and has been deteriorating since the closure. Fold Housing proposes to demolish the factory and build 244 homes, a community centre and business units at the Finaghy site.
Just under 200 of the homes will be for social housing, while the others will be private, affordable housing aimed at first-time buyers. More than 800 people have opposed the planning proposal.