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New asbestos waste plant gets go-ahead in Basildon

Permission has been given for a new waste plant that will handle asbestos, to be built in Basildon. Approval by the council has raised concerns amongst residents about the impact on their health as well as the value of their homes, and they are backing a call for compensation by a local councillor.

The new plant will reportedly deal with up to 5,000 tonnes of asbestos waste a year, but residents already live in close proximity to an existing waste processing plant. Some have complained about the smoke and smell it emits during the day, and have serious worries for their health and safety if an additional plant is to be built.

Dangers of asbestos were hidden

The dangers of breathing in asbestos particles were not always widely known. During the 1950s, and in later decades, workers and their families were constantly exposed to the carcinogenic effects of asbestos whilst working in factories, in the building trade, and also the shipbuilding industry.

Asbestos dust would be taken home on work overalls, only to be spread around the family home. Few people understood the dangers their employers were exposing them to, and because asbestos-related illness takes so long to manifest, victims have only started to emerge during the last decade or so.

Because of this time lapse it can be difficult to gather the evidence needed to make a claim for industrial illness, with some victims making public appeals for people who worked alongside them to come forward.

Prosecutions for endangering health and safety

Exposure to asbestos causes a range of life-threatening illnesses including asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other forms of lung cancer. Nowadays, appropriate health and safety precautions and procedures must be followed by anyone dealing with asbestos, but regular breaches still take place.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) bring prosecutions against anyone found to have disregarded the Control of Asbestos Regulations, 2012. Those who endanger the health and safety of others in this way often receive large fines, or even imprisonment in the most serious cases.

Lower standard of living and reduced house prices

Gary Canham, who is the UKIP councillor in this area of Basildon, describes the “detrimental cumulative impact” these plants will have on residents close by. He has requested a meeting between Basildon Council and local people to discuss their quality of life, and whether or not it can be improved.

This is with a view to obtaining compensation for the effect the waste plants will have on their standard of living and state of health, or to provide them with an alternative place to live. It is unlikely that their existing homes would achieve full market value given that two waste plants stand nearby, even for residents who could afford to move.

The usual searches carried out during conveyancing would uncover the council’s plans for this new waste treatment plant, potentially putting off many buyers. So without compensation, these Basildon residents appear unable to take action to safeguard their health.