Chesterfield council agrees legal settlement over toxic gas-leak council houses that had to be demolished

A legal settlement has finally been agreed after a noxious gas and a highly-combustible chemical were discovered coming from a coal seam under newly-built Chesterfield council houses – which had to be demolished.
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Liberal Democrat councillor, Glenys Falconer, asked the Labour-controlled council’s leader, Tricia Gilby, whether legal proceedings have been completed, and whether the council would get compensation or if it would have to bear the full cost of the building and demolition of the properties.

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Cllr Falconer said: “In 2019 Chesterfield Borough Council had four council houses built at Rufford Close, Boythorpe, at a huge cost. They were immediately pulled down. Repeated requests for information have been stonewalled with the statement that ‘legal proceedings are underway’.”

The council homes at Rufford Close had to be demolished - without anyone ever moving in. Image: Derbyshire TimesThe council homes at Rufford Close had to be demolished - without anyone ever moving in. Image: Derbyshire Times
The council homes at Rufford Close had to be demolished - without anyone ever moving in. Image: Derbyshire Times

Cllr Gilby told a full council meeting that, following legal proceedings, she was ‘pleased’ to announce the council has been able to settle the matter by arbitration, but nothing has been formally released by the council about the identity of any other legal party or the amounts of money involved.

Cllr Gilby added that the public should not need to have any safety concerns about Rufford Close and she would check with council officers about the outcome of the arbitration and mediation process.

A member of the public, Max Kerley, had also asked Cllr Gilby during a previous council meeting about the presence of a coal seam under the properties and he claimed that the council’s decision-making to build the properties had cost Chesterfield tax-payers almost £1 million.

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Cllr Gilby explained that the council’s priority is public safety, and at the time of Mr Kerley’s question, she had added that there was an on-going investigation and potential for legal action.

Cllr Tricia GilbyCllr Tricia Gilby
Cllr Tricia Gilby

She also replied that all the coal below the footprint of the properties had been removed prior to construction, and an investigation had identified that elevated carbon monoxide and hydrogen levels had arisen from chemical reactions occurring within the infill material and not from the presence of an underground fire. The council leader also stated at that time that the council planned to appoint a contractor to begin removing the material and cleaning the site.

Cllr Falconer has now raised concerns that although some details were discussed soon after the houses were pulled down, no updates had been forthcoming for almost three years. She said: “I’m concerned about the high cost of building and demolishing these houses. It’s about time we were told of the outcome. With the current situation of any council’s budget these days, it’s important that councilors and the public are kept informed about things like this.”

Chesterfield Borough Council was asked for a statement regarding the circumstances surrounding the demolished Rufford Close council properties and the nature of the settled legal proceedings but they were unable to provide a comment by the time of publication.