Explosive gas risk found at planned Merseyside ‘garden village’

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Potentially explosive gas has been discovered under part of Merseyside’s proposed new “garden village”.

Around 100 homes planned for Halsnead Garden Village, near Whiston, will require extra protection against methane gas, a legacy of the area’s mining heritage uncovered by an environmental survey.

Although the survey contains no estimate of the cost of the extra protection, industry experts say it could add thousands of pounds to the cost of the houses, proposed for the southern end of what is now Halsnead Park.

It could also spell further delays for the garden village project as the developer, Bloor Homes, will have to agree protection measures with regulators.

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An environmental report published at the end of April on Knowsley Council’s planning portal revealed that the southern part of Bloor Homes’ site is classed as an “Amber 2” risk due to methane gas.

This is the second-highest risk level according to the National House-Building Council’s traffic light system and requires “high-level ground gas protection measures” to prevent methane entering houses and potentially causing an explosion.

However, it does not mean that it is unsafe to build there provided those protection measures are in place.

The Bloor Homes plans form part of the Halsnead Garden Village project, described as the Liverpool City Region’s largest combined residential and employment development.

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One of 14 garden villages that received government backing in 2017, it is expected to bring 1,600 new homes to the area along with space for new businesses.

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However, the project appears to have stalled since the end of 2018 when Bloor Homes and another developer, Stewart Milne Homes, put in planning applications for 360 and 197 homes respectively.

Those applications were expected to be decided on by Knowsley Council’s planning committee last spring, but more than a year down the line no decision has been made.

It is believed that the environmental survey and the discovery of methane at the Bloor Homes site has contributed to this delay due to the need for further monitoring.

As well as methane, the survey discovered topsoil in parts of the site had been contaminated with asbestos and other hazardous materials meaning the soil will have to be stripped away and either buried or disposed of off-site.

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When asked for comment, Bloor Homes declined to address the issue of methane gas at its Halsnead site.

A spokesperson for the developer said: “Bloor Homes has been working with Knowsley Council over the last two years. This time has been spent on agreeing the design principles of the Garden Village.

“We welcome this design focus as we recognise the significance of this development to both the community and the council.

“We believe we have now reached an outcome and we look forward to a planning consent in the next two months.

“We have no plans to delay work on this important site as a result of COVID-19.”

Knowsley Council did not respond to a request for comment.