Publication - Publication

Buchanan and St Ambrose Independent Review: final report

Published: 9 Aug 2019
Directorate:
Learning Directorate
Part of:
Education, Health and social care
ISBN:
9781839600616

Final report of the Buchanan and St Ambrose Independent Review.

82 page PDF

1.4 MB

82 page PDF

1.4 MB

Contents
Buchanan and St Ambrose Independent Review: final report
Chapter Four: History of Site Development

82 page PDF

1.4 MB

Chapter Four: History of Site Development

4.1 This chapter provides an overview of the previous use of the site, options which were discussed for the new school buildings, the site risk assessment, the planning application, remediation steps and key decisions which led to the schools and community centre being built on this particular site.

Site history

4.2 The known history of the site is important. Although it was suggested to us that its use for landfill purposes pre-dated 1945, the general consensus reflected in the papers seen by us on the site history is as follows.

"This summary of the site history has been compiled using the available Ground Investigation Reports (URS, 2006; 2008). According to this information, the site remained in use as rough pasture in a mining area with a railway crossing the north of the site and the eastern site boundary and coal pits to the northeast and southeast of the site until the 1890s when the railway in the north was dismantled and a mineral railway was constructed across the southern area of the site.

"By 1912 a reservoir was present to the southeast of the site boundary and 2No. tanks were located northeast of the site. Residential developments were constructed to the north of the site by the 1930s and the railway was dismantled.

"The site was then used as a landfill from 1945-1972. Information obtained from North Lanarkshire Council indicate that Townhead Landfill received an estimated half million tonnes of domestic refuge from Coatbridge and 77,000 gallons of wet sewage and unspecified residue from Gartsherrie Steel Works were disposed of annually for an unknown period of time. By the 1990s the site was in use as playing fields following remodelling and has remained so up to the present day. No further details are available regarding the capping of the landfill and development of the playing fields." (Ramboll Report Ground Contamination Risk Assessment Report February 2010, Section 2.2[10]).

4.3 On our website is a reference site plan of former landfill use compared to the school site.

Site Selection

4.4 As early as May 2006 it had been recognised that the then sites of St Ambrose High School and Drumpark Special Needs School were no longer fit for purpose and the rebuilding was authorised by North Lanarkshire Council in November 2006.

4.5 In consequence, three options were developed, of which the site ultimately built upon was identified along with one at Blair Road and the possibility of remaining on a pre-existing site.

4.6 These were consulted on and were subject to a Planning and Access Statement and the matter of which option to pursue was presented to the Learning and Leisure Services Committee of North Lanarkshire Council pursuant to that consultation on 17 December 2007.[11]

4.7 The report to that committee summarised the representations for and against the Townhead Road site, setting out a strong – though by no means universal - support for that site.

4.8 The site had some drawbacks, flagged up in the report, including a petition raising issues about:

  • the safety of the site, given that it was previously a landfill site and uncertainties about the underground conditions
  • the loss of the community playing fields and open space
  • the safety of Townhead Road because of heavy traffic
  • the relocation of the community centre

4.9 Equally though there were advantages to the Townhead site over other alternatives, including, as the then head teacher at St Ambrose (and a range of others including pupils and the parent council) noted, educational and safety advantages.

4.10 Noting strong local representations against, officials recommended the Townhead site, saying:

"The recommendation of Learning and Leisure Services is that the new St Ambrose High School/Drumpellier Additional Support Needs secondary campus should be located on the Townhead Road site on the basis that it best meets the educational requirements. It is also considered that the concerns expressed about the site are either not justified or can be addressed."

4.11 The committee agreed the recommendation on 18 December 2007.

4.12 Based on the information provided in relation to site selection, we note the consultation and factors taken into account and conclude that the selection of the Townhead Road site was within the range of options reasonably available and open to North Lanarkshire Council at that time.

Site Risk Assessment

4.13 In consequence of that decision, when North Lanarkshire Council were considering utilisation of the site as an option for the school campus, it was known that the site had a former use as landfill and work, which had been started before, was further commissioned to ascertain whether contaminated material was present and if so, to manage risks associated with it.

4.14 This looked at risks of methane gas presence and other matters of ground and water contamination.

4.15 For ground contamination, this comprised work (with associated reports) by Ramboll, URS, WSP and Balfour Beatty in a period from November 2006 to 2009.

4.16 For the reasons set out below, we separate out findings from these same reports concerning ground gas from soil and water contaminants.

4.17 We have considered the history of this work and key themes from the reports commissioned.

Preliminary Risk Assessment

4.18 A desk study was undertaken by URS in 2005 and an interim and then final report based on site investigation was produced by URS in November 2006[12] setting out their conclusion that the risks to human health were low. This work was peer reviewed by WSP (in letter of 17 November 2008[13]) and the Environmental Services Department of North Lanarkshire Council. On the latter, we noted North Lanarkshire Council were content with the work done by WSP (report of 18 November 2008[14]).

Ground Water Risk Assessment

4.19 For ground water contamination, this comprised work (with testing data) by Ramboll, based on their Risk Assessment of the Water Environment[15] produced on behalf of Balfour Beatty in September 2010.

4.20 That report looked at geology, hydrogeology and hydrology; made a groundwater risk assessment; and tested for elevated levels of metals, phenols, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, ammonia and manganese.

4.21 In all those respects, the conclusions were that risks to human health were either very low or low. The main risks were in relation to the underlying aquifer from elevated levels of ammonia and manganese.

4.22 In those regards, the report notes as follows:

"Elevated concentrations of ammonia and manganese are reported across the site within the shallow groundwater, which are considered to be a result of the reduction of nitrate within the landfill material, industrial activities in the surrounding area and the peat, which is considered likely to be creating a naturally reducing environment on site causing liberation of manganese and ammonia into solution. Elevated concentrations of ammonia and manganese are also reported within the deeper aquifer and are considered to be a result of general hydrogeological conditions in the surrounding area and former mining activities.

"Risks to the underlying aquifer from ammonia and manganese concentrations recorded in the deep groundwater on site are considered MODERATE. However, the risk is attributable to natural processes and former mining activities occurring on site and in the surrounding area as detailed. Therefore the risks to the underlying aquifer from site derived ammonia and manganese is considered to be LOW when the general quality of the deep groundwater in the vicinity of the site is also considered."

4.23 The report sets out in detail the work done and how the risks were assessed and at paragraph 8.1 concluded-

"Following the assessment of significant pollution, key pollutant linkages are considered to be:

  • Elevated concentrations of ammonia and manganese across the site within the shallow groundwater, which are considered to be a result of the reduction of nitrate within the landfill material, industrial activities in the surrounding area and the peat, which is considered likely to be creating a naturally reducing environment on site causing liberation of manganese and ammonia into solution; and
  • Elevated concentrations of ammonia and manganese across the site within the deeper aquifer are considered to be a result of general hydrogeological conditions in the surrounding area and former mining activities.

The elevated concentrations of ammonia and manganese in the bedrock aquifer across the site are considered to be a result of natural processes and former mining activities on site. The risks to the bedrock aquifer from site derived ammonia and manganese are therefore considered to be low. These contaminants are therefore not considered to represent significant risk to the Water Environment in light of the proposed development."

4.24 Further analysis was recommended within certain specific areas of proposed s oakaways.

4.25 SEPA in their letter of 18 January 2010 (which should read 2011)[16] questioned Ramboll's conclusion of regional contamination and the conclusion of low risk from ammonia and Manganese. On that basis they recommended that "A qualitative risk assessment should be used to demonstrate that the sources of contamination on site do not result in significant pollution of the water environment at an appropriate pollution assessment point. Failing this we would recommend that some form of remedial action is taken".

4.26 In their letter of 15 August 2011[17], SEPA noted the risk of contaminant leaching and migration by groundwater flow through and recommended ongoing monitoring of groundwater requirements and contaminant concentrations.

4.27 On 11 October, SEPA referenced uncertainty whether the contaminant contribution from existing landfill might result in significant pollution. That issue was addressed in the Ramboll Additional Risk Assessment of the Water Environment Report[18] of 19 February 2014.

4.28 SEPA and North Lanarkshire Council have confirmed to us that these further recommendations were acted upon and we have no reason to doubt that this was done. In the time available, we have not been able to identify documentary evidence establishing the response to the points at paragraphs 4.25 and 4.26 for the record. We can imply these issues we resolved in a way that was satisfactory by the absence of enforcement steps by SEPA (see their letter of January 2011). In any event, these issues were not about remedial work in terms of planning condition 17. We do not make a recommendation in this regard.

Human Health Risk Assessment

4.29 URS were appointed by Balfour Beatty to carry out a geo-environmental report in October 2008. A review of this report and the subsequent Ground Contamination Risk Assessment Report produced by Ramboll UK for Balfour Beatty, was undertaken by WSP on behalf of North Lanarkshire Council in 2009, during which a number of concerns were raised in their letter of 14 December 2009[19] including potential risks to human health from benzo-a-pyrene, benzo-a-anthracene and nickel identified as potential contaminants of concern. Additional investigation works were therefore designed by Ramboll UK and undertaken by Geotechnics Ltd.

Generic Qualitative Risk Assessment

4.30 In October 2009, a full Generic Qualitative Risk Assessment (GQRA) was undertaken for the proposed St Ambrose School by Ramboll UK for Balfour Beatty (November, 2009).[20]

4.31 The aims of the GQRA produced in February 2010[21] (paragraph 1.2) were "to assess further the potential risks to human health from benzo-a-pyrene, benzo-a-anthracene and nickel identified as potential contaminants of concern and to provide recommendations regarding the suitability of the site for the proposed school development with respect to these three contaminants. In addition recommendations will be provided regarding the suitability of material to be reused on site during site re-profiling works."

4.32 The GQRA set out in considerable detail the model, risks, pathways and relevant groups of people likely to be on site (with receptor exposure characteristics. It identified potential pollutants giving rise to low or moderate risks to human health. Some of these derived from elevated concentrations of lead and nickel which were identified in localised areas of landfill and topsoil material on site. The risks arose as these materials were at depths proposed to be excavated as part of the cut and fill works.

4.33 They recommended that a suitably qualified environmental consultant went on site during the enabling works to ensure that should any areas of apparent contamination be exposed, the material was excavated, stockpiled separately onsite and subjected to validation testing in order to ensure the material was suitable for use. Allowances were also recommended for the removal, treatment and disposal of shallow groundwater should de-watering be required during excavation.

4.34 An Environmental Specification Report was recommended to ensure the Contractor was undertaking all enabling works in accordance with the recommendations made in this report. A Validation Report was also required to demonstrate that the enabling works were carried out according to the Environmental Specification.

4.35 The works recommended to be completed to achieve the aims of the GQRA were:

  • Develop site specific conceptual model for the proposed school
  • Complete detailed risk assessment modelling for risks to human health from
  • contaminants identified in the GQRA report and provide site specific
  • assessment criteria for the contaminants of concern
  • Review site data using the site specific assessment criteria to determine
  • suitability of material for proposed site development
  • Provide recommendations regarding suitability of the site for its proposed use
  • and recommendations for material management during site works

4.36 Paragraph 5.2 of that report sets out conclusions.

Site Specific Risk Assessment

4.37 Under reference to the reasonable worst case exposure model has calculated site specific assessment criteria (SSAC) as detailed in Table 4.14 of the report, Balfour Beatty (stating there "None of the representative site concentrations or identified hotspot concentrations exceed the SSAC. Based on the available data it is therefore considered unlikely that the material at the St Ambrose site will pose a significant risk to human health if the site is developed as a school as per current proposals") conclude:

"None of the representative site concentrations of benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(a)anthracene or hotspot concentrations of nickel from the St. Ambrose site exceed these SSAC. This suggests that, based on the assumptions made in the development of the conceptual site model and existing chemical data reported; the St. Ambrose site would be suitable for use as a school with community facilities to be used by the general public within the context of the scenarios modelled. The SSAC developed are considered suitable for all uses and areas of the site thus there will be no specific material management precautions required with regards to benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(a)anthracene or nickel.

"However, the recommendations made in the Generic Qualitative Risk Assessment (RUK, 2010) should also be adhered to in order to ensure any residual risks to human health are mitigated. These recommendations include:

1. Limited remediation (e.g. excavation and disposal of localised areas of elevated inorganic contaminants should further validation testing prove these materials are unsuitable for reuse);

2. Incorporation of specific design measures (e.g. gas protection measures to mitigate risks posed by ground gases); and

3. Risk management during development (e.g. development of an environmental specification and a watching brief during development to validate conformance to the environmental specification)."

4.38 These conclusions formed the basis of advice considered by officials as part of consideration of the planning application.

Reflections of Review on Site Risk Assessment

4.39 We consider that the detailed and careful steps taken in assessing the risks of ground contamination (and related work concerning risks of water contamination) were reasonable, appropriate and proportionate to the risks arising at the relevant time. They represent a suitably precautionary approach, mindful of the intended use of the site.

4.40 The work was peer reviewed in an appropriate manner.

4.41 This was done both by WSP (in letter of 12 November 2008) and through the work of the Environmental Services Department of North Lanarkshire Council. On the latter, we noted North Lanarkshire Council were content with the work done by WSP (report of 18 November 2008).

Planning application

4.42 An application for planning permission was made which sought permission for the erection of a joint community-use school campus on land at Drumpellier Country Park, off Townhead Road, Coatbridge (Planning Consent 09/00818/FUL).

4.43 A report to the North Lanarkshire Council Planning Committee was submitted on 26 March 2010[22], setting out a range of matters.

4.44 It described the site and the context of the application. It set out a list of objectors and responses to consultation on the application and narrated the existence of a range of additional supportive material prepared by North Lanarkshire Council. We note that a decision was made by North Lanarkshire Council that this application was not one to which the Environmental Impact (EIA) Regulations applied and so it concluded that no EIA was required (letter dated 23 July 2009[23]).

4.45 Under a section headed site history, it stated:

"There is no planning history relevant to this application. It is noted that the site was utilised for landfill from 1945 – 1972."

4.46 It noted a range of consultations with statutory bodies including SEPA where it noted:

"SEPA have no objection to the application. Comments are given in respect to drainage and a condition is required to ensure appropriate drainage systems are utilised. As SUDS [sustainable drainage systems] are to be used, the condition is also required to ensure adequate protection is afforded to the local water environment (including ground water and watercourses). The same applies for any stabilisation works and contamination issues. General comment is given in respect to flood risk information."

4.47 It noted a range of heads of objection to the application including:

"k) Concerns over site contamination and former landfill."

4.48 Paragraph 9.8 of the report addressed the history of previous use as landfill, saying:

"Policy CU/1 (Safety Restraint Areas) reflects the site's former use as a landfill site. This aims to ensure that any development is safeguarded from landfill gas. Detailed site investigations have been submitted and assessed as part of the application. Following on-going investigation into this matter and general site investigation requirements it has been concluded that there are no landfill gas or site contamination implications that would prevent planning permission from being approved. Subject to conditions to ensure appropriate remediation and mitigation, both Protective Services and SEPA have no objection to the application. Conditions are therefore recommended ensuring that all these matters may be finalised."

4.49 After setting out a range of material planning considerations, the report at paragraph 9.20 in a section addresses objections stated regarding past landfill usage. The key objections were:

"k) The proposed site is unsuitable as it is heavily contaminated, generates methane gas and is on the site of a former landfill. The reports carried out are not conclusive to demonstrate that the site can be safeguarded from contamination both in respect to the final use and due to construction and remediation works for contaminated material. Concern is expressed regarding the potential impact on human health (residents and future users of the site), ground water and nearby lochs. A recent High Court ruling concerning Corby Borough Council is cited.

l) The cost of remediation will render the school undeliverable.

m) There are mineshafts on the site. The costs of site remediation are such that the final facility will be negatively impacted, become third rate and contrary to the aims of best value."

4.50 By way of comment North Lanarkshire Council stated: "Refer to paragraph 9.8. The cost of remediation is not material to planning assessment of the wider proposals."

4.51 This current review notes the recommendation that to address these points, appropriate conditions would be required namely:

"16. That BEFORE any works of any description start on the application site, unless otherwise agreed in writing with the Planning Authority, a consolidated site investigation report shall be submitted to and for the approval of the said Authority. The investigation must be carried out in accordance with current best practice advice, such as BS 10175: 'The Investigation of Potentially Contaminated Sites' or CLR 11. The report must include a site specific risk assessment of all relevant pollution linkages and a conceptual site model. Depending on the results of the investigation, a detailed Remediation Strategy may be required.

Reason: To ensure the suitability of the site for the proposed development.

17. That any remediation works identified by the site investigation report requires in term of condition 16 shall be carried out to the satisfaction of the Planning Authority. A certificate (signed by a Chartered Environmental Engineer) shall be submitted to the Planning Authority, prior to the completion of the development, confirming that any remedial works have been carried out in accordance with the terms of the Remediation Strategy.

Reason: To ensure the suitability of the site for the proposed development."

4.52 The report concluded:

"In conclusion and drawing all these factors together, it is considered that despite being located in the Green Belt and on protected space (forming part of the wider Drumpellier Country Park) and therefore being technically contrary to the Local Plan, in this instance there are material considerations that merit a departure from policy. The proposal can be justified in terms of a specific locational need, continues and improves upon existing sports provision currently within the site and has significant community benefits due to the quality of the school and dual community use. It is also considered that this can be achieved without undue adverse impact on the Green Belt, the wider Country Park or surrounding residential area. As such it is recommended that planning permission be approved subject to conditions. It is noted that as this application is significantly contrary to the Development Plan and the Council has an interest, it must be notified to Scottish Ministers. It is also noted that a request for a site visit and hearing has been received."

4.53 That report and recommendation to grant planning permission, subject to conditions, was agreed on 15 April 2010.

4.54 After that report and as narrated in its conclusion, the application was notified to Ministers on 11 May 2010 and was considered by Scottish Ministers for call-in and determination by them. However, Ministers did not do so and referred the matter back to North Lanarkshire Council to decide.

4.55 The reason the application was notified to Ministers was because North Lanarkshire Council had an interest in the proposal and because it was considered to be significantly contrary to the development plan.

4.56 An assessment was made by Scottish Government officials that primarily looked at whether North Lanarkshire Council's decision to grant planning permission for the school had potentially been influenced by a conflict of interest.

4.57 They were satisfied that North Lanarkshire Council had given due consideration to all material factors and that the council's interests as applicant and landowner had not influenced the decision to grant consent. As a result, on 9 June 2010, Ministers cleared the application back to North Lanarkshire Council to determine.

4.58 We note that although the application wasn't notified to Ministers for environmental reasons in 2010, the Scottish Government assessment report[24] acknowledged that the site's former use as a landfill site had been assessed by North Lanarkshire Council who concluded that following detailed site investigations 'there are no landfill gas or site contamination implications that would prevent planning permission from being approved'. The assessment report also acknowledges that SEPA had not objected to the application.

4.59 As noted above, North Lanarkshire Council finally granted planning permission on 9 June 2010.

4.60 The planning consent was amended through an application in 2011 for an alternative junction off Townhead Road for the vehicle access into the development site. The planning consent included a roundabout junction off Townhead Road for vehicular access into the development site. The amendment proposal would require an alteration to the sports pitch layout. This was subsequently granted on the imposition of the same remedial conditions on contamination as the main campus consent.

4.61 No contrary agreement relating to works starting was made and subject to condition 16 being complied with (see below), construction was able to commence.

Remediation steps in implementation of conditions 16 and 17

4.62 In September 2012, Ramboll produced an Environmental and Remediation Evaluation Report,[25] setting out in detail at section 4 the steps taken by them in this regard in fulfilment of the remediation requirements as part of the planning consent.

4.63 Reference is made to paragraph 4.4:

"Given the previous use of the site as a landfill, there was the potential to encounter localised pockets of contaminated material during the earthworks. A strategy was put into place in the environmental specification in order to manage potential risks associated with this material, should it be encountered.

"The only potentially contaminated material encountered during the earthworks was areas of asbestos containing materials. Further details regarding this material are provided in Section 4.6 below.

"Following the Ground Contamination Risk Assessment Report and Detailed

Qualitative Risk Assessment Report (Ramboll, 2010) a number of hotspots of lead were encountered in the area of the pitches, north of the site, one hotspot of lead was encountered beneath the building footprint and in supplementary investigation as part of the site works one hotspot of lead was also encountered in the area of car parking north of the building (as illustrated on drawing 7764/E/010).

"In the Environmental Specification Report (Ramboll, 2010) recommendations were made to ensure that during excavation works in these areas, additional testing should be undertaken to ensure the material is suitable for reuse on site."

4.64 The report concluded that:

"Based on the information provided to Ramboll, it is considered that the mitigation measures proposed in the Risk Management Strategy as part of the Ground Contamination Risk Assessment Report (Ramboll, 2010) and Environmental Specification (Ramboll, 2010) have been adequately complied with in regards to mitigation of potential risks to Human Health.

The Conceptual Site Model (CSM) for Human Health has been updated following the Development to illustrate that the site does not present any residual significant risks to Human Health."

4.65 WSP further peer reviewed the work concerned in terms of their letter of 6 December 2012.[26]

4.66 That further review noted the range of steps taken to address the identified lead hotspots and areas of asbestos containing materials, in order to eliminate any residual significant risk to human health. That included use of additional topsoil and removal of the ground material in the vicinity of asbestos sheeting. It noted that 9,330kg of contaminated material was indicated as having been removed from the site.

4.67 Subject to relatively minor comments, WSP concluded that the information provided was generally reasonable and "appear to have provided a reasonable level of mitigation relative to potential gas and human health risks at the site". Those minor points were closed off, as set out in detail in the WSP Peer Review Follow-Up.[27]

Reflections on Planning Processes by Review

4.68 Having reviewed the planning processes undertaken by North Lanarkshire Council, we are satisfied that they were thorough and rigorous and set out a range of planning options and decisions that were reasonable for elected members of North Lanarkshire Council to consider and take as the local planning authority.

4.69 It was drawn to our attention that concerns about the former use for landfill had been mentioned as raised at the time of the planning application.

4.70 We find that this is correct. It was right and proper that objectors and others had raised concerns of this nature.

4.71 However, as seems clear from the extensive remedial work commissioned and imposed as a condition, it was clear that North Lanarkshire Council were aware of the site history and took reasonable professional and scientific advice to address concerns in a proportionate and responsible way.

4.72 The report by officials dealt with concerns on past use in a brief way, but from our consideration of the objections drawing attention to past use, we have been unable to identify any concerns which were based on any specific matters other than general – though understandable – anxiety.

4.73 Nothing done or decided appears to us to have been in contravention of Planning Advice Note 33[28] or of the Scottish Government's extensive guidance on contaminated land issued in 2006[29] (even though the land was not on the Contaminated Land Register).

4.74 As it is mentioned in the Committee Report (as cited by objectors), we should comment on the decision of the High Court of the case of Claimants appearing on the Register of the Corby Group Litigation and Corby District Council [[2009] EWHC 1944][30].

4.75 Our first comment is that general references to that case are not the same as identifying a specific cause for concern at the current site.

4.76 Secondly, it seems to us that the case and circumstances at Corby are wholly different and of a different order of magnitude from the current site. We consider this to have been adequately clear at the time of the decision in 2010, but is undoubtedly correct, in our view, when read with the conclusions about extent of contamination and level of health risk set out in this Report.

4.77 It seems to us reasonable for North Lanarkshire Council to have recognised the importance of the concerns as noted in the Committee Report – as they did in correspondence – but relied on the professional expert advice received by them.

4.78 As it was raised with us, we comment on the role of SEPA. Though North Lanarkshire Council is the statutory authority and primary regulator for contaminated land, SEPA's specialist contaminated land unit continued to provide support, advice and assistance to North Lanarkshire Council's Contaminated Land Officer regarding assessing pollution of the water environment and to the standards of remediation required to protect the water environment from historical contamination sources.

4.79 We do this as we have had our attention drawn to the letter from SEPA of 15 February 2010,[31] in which a range of detailed questions are posed, in particular in its conclusion about the adequacy of qualitative risk assessments for contaminated sources.

4.80 SEPA had written on 11 September 2009[32] confirming they had no objection in principle. That letter recognised their interest in land contamination at paragraph 5.1 in pollution of the water environment arising from any land contamination at the site. Paragraph 5.1 indicated the desirability that "any investigation and remediation works should be at least sufficient to ensure that the site conditions, once developed, would not constitute contaminated land under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990".

4.81 Their letter of 15 February 2010 – as can be seen above – was issued at around the time that such work was being done and was responded to by Ramboll on 5 March. The report to the Planning Committee of 26 March 2010 (see above) indicates that by then SEPA had no objections.

4.82 It seems to us entirely appropriate for SEPA to test the matters in their letter of 15 February but note that they were content to confirm the absence of objection, at least in principle, by the time that Report was issued (see their letter of 22 February 2010[33]). It seems to us that this is an entirely appropriate approach, mindful that appropriate conditions were proposed. SEPA have confirmed that it was satisfied that North Lanarkshire Council, through the land-use planning system, was taking adequate steps as planning authority in respect of environmental aspects of the development. There were planning conditions in relation to protection of the water environment, where SEPA was a statutory consultee.

4.83 We are conscious that engagement with SEPA continued after the granting of permission on a range of matters relevant to their functions, up to 2013.

4.84 As noted above SEPA in January 2011 and August 2011 raised questions about the basis on which the qualitative risk assessment should be used to demonstrate that the sources of contamination on site do not result in significant pollution and noted the risk of contaminant leaching and migration by groundwater flow through and recommended ongoing monitoring of groundwater requirements and contaminant concentrations.

4.85 Although, in the time available, we have not been able to identify all the documentary evidence, we found no evidence to suggest that North Lanarkshire Council had side-lined or inappropriately disregarded views of SEPA or had breached their own planning conditions on these issues.

4.86 We should add, in relation to the decision of North Lanarkshire Council not to treat this application as one requiring an EIA, that this seems to be a reasonable conclusion. The proposed development was not one triggering a mandatory EIA and we recognise that EIAs, in their nature, assess future use not past. It would not normally be expected at a school campus proposal would trigger the need for an EIA. In addition, it is not clear that carrying out an EIA would have led to a different outcome on matters relevant to this Report.

Conclusions

4.87 In summary, we conclude North Lanarkshire Council were aware of the site history and took reasonable professional and scientific advice to address concerns in a proportionate and responsible way. It was known and understood by all concerned – officials and elected members – that this was a brownfield site being brought into productive use.

4.88 The detailed and careful steps taken in assessing the risks of ground contamination (and related work concerning risks of water contamination) were reasonable, appropriate and proportionate to the risks arising at the relevant time. They represent a suitably precautionary approach, mindful of the intended use of the site and that the work was peer reviewed in an appropriate manner.


Contact

Email: lynsey.mcilhone@gov.scot