A FATHER fears decontamination plans for York’s former British Sugar site could expose residents to toxic chemicals.

He claims a similar thing happened to his family when an old gasworks site near their home was remediated more than a decade ago.

He said they had been ill since being affected by fumes and toxic chemicals in dust from the site when it was decontaminated.

He said his wife in particular had suffered extreme sensitisation to chemicals, which meant she experienced an allergic reaction even when exposed now to only minor levels.

He said there were similar chemicals on the British Sugar site off Boroughbridge Road and he feared the remediation plans – which City of York Council’s planning committee considers today, with officers recommending approval - could cause health problems for people living downwind.

His concerns were echoed by a doctor who treated his wife, Dr Damien Downing, formerly based in York but now in Harley Street and president of the British Society for Ecological Medicine. He said that when land was remediated, the contaminants were carried away by air and water.

“York residents will recall the treacle pudding smell that spread over the whole town when the sugar factory was working,” he said. “These toxins will spread the same way, downwind. Those that don’t will go down the drainage system or through the water table into the Ouse.”

A report prepared for today’s meeting has revealed that elevated levels of ground gas, ammonia, petroleum hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, asbestos and heavy metals have all been found at the site, in a layer of earth up to 13 metres thick.

The remediation plans involve excavation and treating earth, and then reusing it on the site once contaminant levels fall below accepted levels.

The father, who does not wish to be identified for personal reasons, called on councillors to refuse permission or at least defer the scheme until written assurances are provided that residents will not suffer any short or long term health problems.

A British Sugar spokesman said the regeneration proposals were supported by a detailed remediation and reclamation strategy that had been prepared following many years of consultation and joint working with the council’s environmental health officers and the Environment Agency.

“British Sugar is pleased that the result of this work is an agreed strategy for the remediation of the site which is supported by both the EHO and the Environment Agency,” he said.

“As a responsible landowner, British Sugar will make sure that the strategy is implemented, and the remediation work and its results monitored over the appropriate time period, to ensure that the site is made suitable for future homes and residents whilst complying with modern standards and guidance for environmental protection.”

Mike Slater, council assistant director for planning and public protection, said the contamination at the former British Sugar site was very different from that at the former gasworks site, which contained different substances prone to give off vapours and fumes. He said: “The safety of residents and those working on the site is our priority. Any works carried out as part of the redevelopment of the British Sugar site will be in accordance with best practice and emissions will be monitored throughout.”