Polluted land development in Rainham approved

Pollution levels on an unregulated “tip” in East London will be investigated further before it can be developed into warehouses, Havering Council’s planning department has promised.

The Greater London Authority (GLA), which owns the site at Courrier Road, Rainham, is hoping to build a complex of warehouses for industrial and commercial use.

However, studies of pollution on the site have shown “elevated concentrations” of chemicals such as ammonia, which is almost one thousand times normal assessment levels.

Last week (June 8), Havering Council’s planning committee approved plans for the warehouses after being verbally assured that “further detailed investigations” will be carried out.

According to planning documents, the “old tip” site was marshland that became a “commercial and household” rubbish dump from the 1960s until as recently as 2005.

Environmental consultancy Delta Simons, who tested water on the site, found very high levels of ammonia and nitrites, which in excessive levels can negatively impact ecosystems and human health.

The company also found “hotspots” of metals such as boron, chromium III, and magnesium, which are naturally occurring, but can also have health impacts in high amounts.

Despite the contamination levels, Delta Simons said remediation work to stop pollution leaving the site “would not be justified” due to “existing widespread contamination” in the surrounding area.

Committee member Jane Keane suggested the planning application should be delayed until further details about how polluted the land is made available.

But Havering’s planning manager Simon Thelwell said the application has a “pre-commencement condition” requiring further investigation and possible remediation before building work can start.

He added: “What you have to realise is the next stage is probably very expensive so the developer wouldn’t do it unless they have permission in place.

“That is why [contamination issues] are dealt with through conditions, we’re satisfied and our environmental protection officer is satisfied.

“There will be further investigations to find out more now.

“The [environmental consultant’s] initial findings are that the land is not significantly contaminated compared to what you may have expected to find on landfill sites.”

This assurance was accepted by the committee, which voted to approve the plans.

Despite Mr Thelwell’s reassurances, he did not give the committee the wording of the conditions the GLA and its development partner SEGRO must comply with.

Havering Council has not responded to requests for the wording of those conditions from the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The GLA, which owns the site through its property development business, has also not responded to repeated requests for comment.

A spokesperson for SEGRO said “extensive” investigations have been undertaken on the site and that it would be “fully remediated” to Environment Agency and local authority standards.

However, SEGRO has not responded to requests for more details of its remediation strategy, which it claims has been agreed with the council.

They added: “As a responsible, long-term investor, SEGRO is committed to driving brownfield regeneration and implementing a strategy that will deliver positive economic benefits and improve the environment and the communities in which we operate.”

Previous planning applications from 2007 and 2018, which looked at preparing the land to be developed, contained reports recommending capping the land with additional soils.

They also advised creating a “temporary interception system” to reduce metals and chemicals running into underground water and the River Thames.

However, a 2018 report by environmental consultants Delta Simons, carried out to prepare the site for future development, said there was “no visual evidence” that interception systems or barrier walls were ever built.

The site is one of the last plots of land owned by the GLA in a portfolio of sites it calls “East+” along the River Thames in East London.

According to marketing materials, high pollution levels in many of the sites meant they were a “major liability” to the GLA’s property business.

To view the application documents online visit Havering Council’s planning website and search for reference P1597.22.

To watch the meeting, visit this link: https://democracy.havering.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=590&MId=7714

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter