A THOROUGH examination of the potential ground contamination at the former Belmont Hospital site in Tiverton must be carried out before any new homes can be created.
Developers Devonshire Homes want to convert the Belmont Hospital and adjacent Twyford Buildings into 39 apartments while building a further 38 brand new homes elsewhere on the site.
The scheme will be discussed at the meeting of Mid Devon District Council's planning committee tomorrow (Wednesday, February 12) and has been recommended for approval subject to a number of conditions, including several to address concerns about potential health risks posed by ground contamination.
The developers say they are happy to carry out further ground investigations and remain confident that they will soon be able to bring the vacant site back into positive use.
In the past it has been occupied by workhouses followed by a hospital, and an environmental health officer states in the report that "numerous potentially contaminative activities have been located within the vicinity of the site."
In addition, a former quarry is located to the south of the site, which the report says has the minor potential to give rise to methane gas, which it says would need monitoring prior to starting work.
The report states: "The Phase 1 contamination survey, submitted with the proposal, has identified some small pockets of land contamination within the site ... this needs to be further investigated to understand fully the problems posed and the mitigation measures required."
The officer's report recommends that planning permission should only be granted on the condition that the site is surveyed and any possible pollution problems tackled.
The report must include a survey of the extent, scale and nature of contamination, including an assessment of the potential risks including human health, property and adjoining land
The firm describe the conditions referred to within the report as "standard planning conditions" and say their use within this officer's report was expected. In line with industry norms, Devonshire Homes say they will carry out further ground investigations once an initial assessment has been completed, providing planning permission has been granted.
Steve Russell, Devonshire Homes' land and planning director, said: "After three years of hard work in partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency, we are delighted to have reached this milestone in the project and to have received a positive officers' report. We now look forward to these plans being discussed at committee and hope we will be able to move forward soon, so that this long standing vacant site is brought back into positive use."
In its submission in support of the scheme, the applicant's design team promise planners: "We took time to ensure the viewer is never presented with the austere, institutional hospital facade in isolation, but softened with the contemporary lines and shapes surrounding it."