Neighbours' 'living hell' as Mulberry Homes building site dust mountain blights Irchester family's lives

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The mammoth heap towers over residents’ back gardens

A family who have had an enormous spoil heap piled next to their Irchester home have said a neighbouring building site has been a ‘living hell’.

Andrew and Sharon Allen’s house backs onto fields where Mulberry Homes has been constructing 70 new houses and flats off Farndish Road.

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Since June, the couple have watched the enormous dusty pile of soil and rubble grow close to their boundary.

The pile of 'over burden' has been stored in a hug pile on the boundary of the site in IrchesterThe pile of 'over burden' has been stored in a hug pile on the boundary of the site in Irchester
The pile of 'over burden' has been stored in a hug pile on the boundary of the site in Irchester

For the past five months they have been unable to use their back garden and say they have experienced breathing difficulties inside their home.

Mr Allen said: “It’s been a living hell. Since June it’s got bigger and bigger. The prevailing wind blows the dust into our property 20 per cent of the time.

“In July my son, who suffers from asthma, had a really bad attack. He went back to uni early in August to escape the dust.

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"You can feel it in your eyes and in your mouth. It’s like being sandblasted on a beach.”

The pile of soil towers over the wire fenceThe pile of soil towers over the wire fence
The pile of soil towers over the wire fence

The fine dust blown into their garden has left surfaces constantly dirty and the debris is so fine that it has even penetrated in between the panes of glass on their new double-glazed windows.

Planning condition 7 in documents produced for Mulberry Property Developments Ltd by engineering consultants WSP set out how that risk from dust was to be mitigated.

It said: “This identified that there is a Medium Risk of dust soiling impacts and a Low Risk of increases in particulate matter concentrations due to construction activities.

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“However, through good site practice and the implementation of suitable mitigation measures, the effect of dust and particulate matter releases would be significantly reduced. The residual effects of the construction phase on air quality will be negligible.”

The mountain of soil and rubble looms over the back gardensThe mountain of soil and rubble looms over the back gardens
The mountain of soil and rubble looms over the back gardens

Adding: “No development shall take place until an air quality report has been submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority.”

As the soil pile has grown, the family who usually take antihistamines to counter seasonal hay fever say they have had to permanently take the pills to counter the effects of inhaling the dust.

Mr Allen, a paramedic, had to rush his wife, a community nurse, to A&E for emergency treatment for an inflammatory response to allergens.

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He said: “The doctor said it (the response) was more than likely to the dust. She was put on a high dose of steroids and a Ventolin inhaler. Fortunately she’s a lot better now.

A cloud of dust rises from the pileA cloud of dust rises from the pile
A cloud of dust rises from the pile

"We’ve not been able to go into the garden and there’s the added cost. We can’t hang out the washing. My dog has to have extra grooming because of the dust. The cars’ paintwork has been damaged.”

After his son’s asthma attack, Mr Allen contacted Mulberry Homes raising his objection to the stockpiling of overburden soil on the site so close to his home and the risk to health from the increased amounts of dust being produced with no suppression being used.

He was told that the stockpiling was a temporary measure due to the Farndish Road closure following complaints raised by residents of Farndish due to increased plant traffic. He was reassured that as the road reopened that the stockpile would be removed off site, approximately a month’s worth of loads. Although Mulberry Homes has been suppressing dust on the roads, no such mitigation was used for the stockpile on site.

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Mr Allen said: “We have been exposed to the dust and reduced air quality 24 hours a day, seven days a week since early June with the only abatement on days of calm still weather. No-one can say what particulates are being released as no-one is carrying out any monitoring or testing.

"It’s not just soil in the stockpile as debris from the multiple road excavations have been dumped there as well as some deep digging from across the site.

“We are unable to enjoy our outside space which is detrimental to our mental health.

The family's car has been covered in a layer of dust for monthsThe family's car has been covered in a layer of dust for months
The family's car has been covered in a layer of dust for months

"On the days where the air quality is really bad, which is often, there is no reprieve in the house either, the atmosphere is heavy and thick, you can taste the dust in the air.”

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After a site visit by an Environmental Protection Officer from North Northamptonshire Council (NNC), a notice was served on Mulberry Homes, on October 25, stating that NNC was satisfied that there has been a dust ‘nuisance’ and that ‘forthwith they must abate the nuisance and prevent its recurrence’.

A letter seen by the Northants Telegraph said: “How they abate the nuisance is up to them using whatever method they deem appropriate for conditions/operations.

“We can't stop them operating, but they should operate in a manner that doesn't cause a dust nuisance i.e. dust escaping off their site and onto yours or your neighbours.”

This week the Allen family received an email from NNC’s planning department seen by this paper.

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Mr Allen said: “I was informed by the planning department that enforcement of breaches of planning are discretionary powers and that it was felt ‘not in the public interest’ and not a valid ‘proportionate use of limited resources’ to take formal action against the company.”

Chris Russell, construction director at Mulberry Homes, said: “We are working with the local planning and environmental health teams to mitigate the dust on site to best practice, and are removing the spoil heap whilst being mindful of increased traffic. We understand residents’ concerns and remain grateful to them and the wider community for their patience.”

Mr Allen added: “We have been subject to the torture of this stockpile since June. It is oppressive. I believe it is dangerous to health. It contravenes the Government's Clean Air Strategy 2019 to ‘cut public exposure to airborne particulate matter’, and does not ‘make air healthier to breathe’.”

North Northants Council has been contacted for a comment.