Managing directors of Countryside Properties and MMC Estates issue an apology

Date published: 21 September 2005

On the day that Save Spodden Valley campaigners travel to the European Parliament in Brussels to discuss asbestos concerns with MEPs and European Commissioners there has been a new twist to the controversial planning application to build over 600 homes and a children's nursery on the site of what was the world's largest textile factory in Spodden Valley:

The managing directors of Countryside Properties and MMC Estates - (the landowners and potential developers) have just issued an apology for their ‘past actions’ and ‘misinformation’. However, they have chosen their words very carefully.

The statment in full, followed by a response from the Save Spodden Valley camapign:

Michael Drogan, Managing Director of MMC Estates, landowner of the TBA site said:

"We would like to apologise to local residents for the confusion and concern our actions have caused since our purchase of the site in 2004. We recognise that this has brought about a sense of mistrust and has undermined our ability to work with the community. We are addressing this, and plan to communicate more openly and regularly in future.

"Following the completion of technical investigations which have now been published, we recognise that there is significant asbestos contamination in areas of the woodland area and have evidence of pockets of contamination in other parts of the site.

"We are now working, with our specialist consultants, Encia to prepare a remediation strategy, that is, a programme to ‘make safe’ the asbestos on site. Encia have supplied Rochdale Borough Council and their consultants with their initial findings and we look forward to working with them to develop the appropriate strategy."

Ian Kelley, Managing Director of Countryside Properties (Northern) said:

"Following further investigations, we recognise that there has been miscommunication surrounding the levels of asbestos contamination across the site for which we would like to apologise. Concerns about health, safety and the future are very real and we must be sure to clearly address them.  We are determined to ensure that we communicate openly and clearly with local residents about the future of Spodden Valley and the Turner Brothers site. 

"Countryside Properties has always maintained that we will not exercise our option to purchase the site unless and until the site has been fully remediated to the satisfaction of The Environment Agency, the Health & Safety Executive and Rochdale Borough Council and planning consent has been obtained. We do sincerely believe that remediation of the site is the best way forward for the community and there is no question that this sort of industrial site should be redeveloped."

Save Spodden Valley campaign response...

Jason Addy, Co-ordinator of the Save Spodden Valley Campaign comments:

"We welcome the developers’ apparent acknowledgment of past wrong doing, but actions do speak louder than words and the past 18 months have seen some very questionable activity from them, including: the destruction of woodlands and wildlife habitats; the public denial of exposed asbestos on the site; the ‘e-jacking of campaign web site names; the omission of positive asbestos test results to councillors - to name but a few".

"The statement from the Meredith Thomas public relations company regrets past ‘miscommunication’ about asbestos contamination, unfortunately this site may require the scrutiny of medical doctors rather than ‘spin’ doctors".  
"The international significance of the Spodden Valley is now being recognised. We must have a full, independent investigation of all the facts and issues raised. That is why we are calling on the Office of Deputy Prime Minister for an Inquiry".

"The Save Spodden Valley campaign seeks a positive and permanent solution to contamination.  Future generations of Rochdalians could pay the ultimate price if this is not done properly".

"Safe remediation is a legal requirement, not a ‘favour’ to the town in return for building hundreds of houses. For the developers to say the only way to clean up the site is by allowing 600+ homes to be built is tantamount to blackmail". 

"The developers'  ‘mistake in communication’ is minor when compared to the potential damage to public health if mistakes are made and contamination is released from the Spodden Valley. One further cancer death caused by asbestos from that site is one too many. Safety before profit - is that too much to ask?"

Rochdale MP, Paul Rowen, comments:

"I welcome the apology from MMC Estates and Countryside Properties.  The former TBA site is an important part of Rochdale's industrial heritage. Thousands of Rochdalians and their families have been associated with it.  I am very happy to support the development of the site, but the Health and Safety issues and safe remediation of asbestos must be achieved before anything further.  I will continue to work with the Save Spodden Valley Group, Rochdale Council, the HSE and all those committed to the future of our community."

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