Councillors have criticised a developer which did not bring reports on a major new building project to a town hall meeting.
Elected representatives from Hindley and Hindley Green wards were left unhappy after Peel Holdings did not allow them to scrutinise documents concerning work on the South of Hindley site.
A meeting to discuss progress on the massive brownfield development, which could eventually see up to 2,000 homes, industrial premises and a link road built on brownfield land, was held involving council planning officers, Peel representatives and Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue.
Arcadis, the firm which did preliminary surveying work last year to check for asbestos and contamination, only submitted the executive summary after the meeting and a full technical report is still awaited.
Elected representatives could not disguise their frustration they could not closely quiz Peel and the town hall officers as they work towards submitting an outline planning application for the project.
Another meeting will now have to be held once all the information is available as there are some worries about how rigorous the investigation work was.
Ms Fovargue said: “I welcomed the opportunity to attend the meeting last week and understand that an outline planning application will be submitted shortly and I would encourage people to submit their views.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to discuss at length the outcome of the ground investigation works by Arcadis as the report submitted was not made available to either myself or ward councillors.
“I am now in receipt of an executive summary of the report and understand that the council and Peel Holdings are prepared to meet further to discuss its contents as I understand there are concerns regarding the methodology of the sites chosen for in-depth exploration.”
Labour representative for Hindley ward Coun Paul Blay added: “The information wasn’t there for us to scrutinise and we weren’t too happy with that.
“We’ve now got some of the reports and are waiting for more.
“We’re going to be having another meeting with Peel and the council to discuss this further and we want this to take place as soon as possible.”
The strongest criticism came from outspoken Hindley Green independent representative Coun Bob Brierley, who made a litany of complaints to Peel and health and safety chiefs while Arcadis was carrying out work near the former Turner Brothers asbestos factory last summer.
Coun Brierley said: “I’ve requested another meeting before a planning application is made. We only got a copy of the report the day after the meeting.
“They say they’ve only found two traces of asbestos but I don’t agree with that at all. It’s not clear what Arcadis has done and I’m going to suggest a full investigation is made by another contractor.
“In my opinion Arcadis’ behaviour proved they knew where they were digging was clear. The driver of the JCB only had a hi-vis jacket on and had the window open and they only used a five-litre water sprayer.
“I’ve said they need to check along the railway line and at a place locally called the Monkey Bridge. If they find a massive deposit then they are going to have to clean it all up.
“They’ve come with a smoke and mirrors report.”
The executive summary, which this newspaper has now seen, says reports of possible asbestos from the former Turner Brothers site were made to Arcadis but the two surface soil samples which had fibres in them were more likely to be from fly-tipped rubbish.
One sample from deeper ground had evidence of asbestos in it and relatively low levels of chemical contaminants were also found, the report said.
The conclusion said the land surveyed had not been greatly affected by the factory and risks to residents were very low, with some mitigation measures required to protect construction workers and those living in the planned homes.
This matches the verdict of the authorities last year when Coun Brierley raised the issue, when residents were reassured the work was safe.
Peel Holdings was approached for comment but had not responded as we went to press.
Marie Bintley, Wigan Council’s assistant director for housing and regeneration, said: “The council and adjoining land owner Peel held a briefing for local members and MP to update on progress in the preparation of the outline planning application share information following the ground investigation works at the South Hindley development site.
“A further meeting has been requested which will take place in the near future. Following that meeting we will take further advice as to whether any further work is required or whether we are now in a position to progress to submitting a planning application.
“We will continue to engage with members, the MP and residents as plans progress on what is an important future development site for the borough, already identified as a broad location for development in the adopted Local Plan Core strategy.”