Councillor requests details of legal settlement after toxic gas-leak council houses had to be demolished

A persistent councillor is still waiting to find out the nature and amount of a legal settlement after a noxious gas and a highly-combustible chemical were discovered coming from a coal seam under newly-built council houses which subsequently had to be demolished over three years ago.
Council Homes At Rufford Close Which Have Been DemolishedCouncil Homes At Rufford Close Which Have Been Demolished
Council Homes At Rufford Close Which Have Been Demolished

The four Chesterfield Borough Council houses were built on Rufford Close, at Boythorpe, Chesterfield, in 2019, but they had to be demolished at a great financial loss and cost soon after gases were found in the foundations and following reports of a suspected fire.

Since Liberal Democrat Cllr Glenys Falconer asked the Labour-controlled council’s leader, Cllr Tricia Gilby, at a council meeting on on October 18 about the nature of legal proceedings, possible compensation, and the costs, fellow Lib Dem councillor and opposition leader, Paul Holmes, said as of November 12 Cllr Falconer was still waiting for a reply.

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Cllr Holmes said: “Glenys – as of yesterday – when I spoke to her at the Rememberance Day event, has still had no formal answer to her question at council. When she gets it – it now seems likely to be as clear as previous ones three and four years ago – ie ‘legal proceedings underway, so can’t really tell you anything’.”

Liberal Democrat Chesterfield Borough Councillor Paul HolmesLiberal Democrat Chesterfield Borough Councillor Paul Holmes
Liberal Democrat Chesterfield Borough Councillor Paul Holmes

Cllr Falconer had asked Cllr Gilby whether legal proceedings have been completed, and whether the council would get compensation or if the council would have to bear the full cost of the building and demolition of the properties?

The council leader said that following legal proceedings she was pleased to announce the council had settled the matter by arbitration but nothing has yet been formally released by the council about the identity of any other potentially involved legal party or about any of the amounts of money involved.

Cllr Gilby added she would check the outcome of the arbitration and mediation and that the public should not have any safety concerns.

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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.

At the time of Mr Kerley’s question, Cllr Gilby explained there was an investigation and potential for legal action and she stressed the council’s priority is public safety.

Cllr Gilby added that all the coal below the properties had been removed before 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 also planned to appoint a contractor during this time to begin removing the material and cleaning the site, according to Cllr Gilby.

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Cllr Falconer has been concerned about the cost of building and demolishing the properties and that the public deserve to be informed at a time when the council is facing an estimated £4m budget shortfall in 2024/25.

The properties were built by May, 2019, pending pavement and road works before they were soon demolished and the site was levelled and remains locked and fenced-off.

Cllr Falconer confirmed on Tuesday evening, November 14, that she had still not had a reply from Cllr Gilby after asking the question about the outcome of the investigation.

She added that last week she had also asked the council’s Chief Executive Huw Bowen if there had been any outcome regarding her Rufford Close enquiry and she said she was promised a response this week.

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Cllr Falconer also said that she was aware a member of the public has also asked questions about Rufford Close several times and they too have not yet received a detailed answer.

Chesterfield Borough Council was originally asked for a statement at the end of October and again on November 14 regarding the circumstances surrounding the demolished Rufford Close council properties and the nature of the settled legal proceedings but the authority has not yet provided a formal comment.