Wexford County Council has refused planning permission for the demolition of the former C&D Hardware premises in Trinity Street to make way for the building of a 45-unit block of apartments due to fears over lingering contamination from decades of gas and coal production on the site.
The planning department of the local authority turned down an application by HPC Sales Ltd, the parent company of C&D, for the construction of the partly four, five and six-storey complex with balconies, roof gardens, two retail units and a car park,.
The reason for refusal was uncertainty over the impact of groundwater on the Slaney River Valley SAC (Special Area of Conservation) and Wexford Harbour and Slobs SPA (Special Protection Area) and it was decided a environmental management plan and a Natura Impact Statement would be required.
'I consider that the potential for significant effects is uncertain', said a senior planner handled the application.
The planning official said an environmental management plan is needed to assess and address any potential human health risks and environmental risks from the development. 'The proposed development is therefore considered prejudicial to public health and contrary to the proper planning and development of the area' said the inspector.
The Council noted that the site lies within a flood zone and a flood risk assessment was submitted with the application along with a number of proposed measures to mitigate flooding. As gas and coal tar was produced and stored on the site from 1865 up to the 1990's, an environmental assessment was carried out on the soil and groundwater while gas monitoring was also carried out.
The report revealed evidence of physical contamination by hydrocarbons, tar and tar fragments and oily products which were observed in most of the existing ground layers. Levels of aresnic, lead, aromatic hydrocarbons, sulphate and VOC's (volatile organic compounds) were elevated at some of the test sites. VOC's are dangerous contaminants of groundwater resulting in pollution and are generally introduced to the environment through industrial processes. Concentrations of sulphate, orthophosphate, TPH, benzene, ammonia and phenols exceeded groundwater quality regulations at a number of test points. Gas flow was not detected.
The report made a number of recommendations including that an environmental management plan be put in place during any re-development of the site to assess and mitigate any environmental risks, human health risks, or risk to future buildings. A waste management plan was also submitted but it only dealt with demolition and construction waste and did not mention the hazardous material listed in the environmental assessment.
Given the contaminants present on the site, the Environmental Section of Wexford County Council is of the opinion that a waste management plan taking account of the contamination is required before any permission can be granted.
The applicant has been asked to submit a waste management plan and environmental management plan, outlining specific mesures to treat and dispose of the contaminants highlighted in the environmental report, during the building and operation states.
A large number of residents in Parnell Street objected to the development and raised concerns about visual impact, overlooking of houses, flood risk, traffic, contamination of the site from the old Wexford gasometer and the smell of gases during ground testing in May of this year.
The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht asked for an archaeological report as the site is close to the Military Barracks which is a protected structure and beside Dubross House, the last upstanding relic of the old Gasworks complex.