Student housing village set to proceed despite doubts over contamination

Plans for a student housing ‘village’ development in Carlisle, costing £15 million, seem set to proceed, despite doubts over the possible contamination of the development area. The scheme, which will consist of town houses designed to provide accommodation for up to 495 students studying at Cumbria University, is being built by Border Construction, and will be situated in Norfolk Street – on a site previously occupied by the seatbelt factory Key Safety Systems.

Planning officers have controversially recommended approving the application for planning permission for the development, despite an investigation into the site, which uncovered evidence of significant arsenic, polycyclic hydrocarbon and chromium levels. Amongst the diseases and conditions that have been linked with exposure to these substances are cancer, birth defects and asthma. However the report published by the planning office stated:

“It is not unusual for contaminated land to be redeveloped. The key question is whether the site can be safely remediated,” adding:

“The advice is that this can be achieved.”

The development has also met with opposition from local residents, due to concerns about noise disturbances, the height of the buildings and the limited number of parking spaces. Two petitions and in excess of 70 written objections have been sent to the council, but planning officers have argued that the development will benefit the town by boosting local businesses and attracting greater numbers of students. However, if the development receives council approval Border Construction will have to commit to financing improvements to the area’s cycle paths and open spaces.

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