Better to be safe than
sorry over Portsmouth’s poisoned land

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It’s always disconcerting when a child comes home from school with a note saying the building’s grounds are out of bounds because that land is believed to be contaminated.

We say ‘always’ as though it’s an everyday occurrence.

But let’s remember, in Portsmouth an event such as this is not unusual.

Of course, as we report on page 5 today, some parents’ reaction is understandable.

Peter Brown has decided to take his son Owen out of Mayfield School in North End until the results of tests are known and the all-clear given.

We have some sympathy with him when he says: ‘ If they don’t know what it is, how do they know it’s safe for the children?’

However, Portsmouth City Council has a quite understandable policy of looking on the black side when the word ‘contamination’ is flagged up.

It has every right to.

Let’s go back to 1991. Many readers will remember the Lumsden Road crisis at Eastney. It made national headlines.

The council received a report one afternoon which showed the ground around and below the entire estate of Ministry of Defence houses and flats there was poisoned.

Overnight, 120 families were evacuated and rehoused, the estate sealed off.

It was shut for years until remedial work was completed to replace all the top soil which had been contaminated by a cocktail of heavy metals and asbestos. Those homes had been built on the old naval tip nicknamed the Glory Hole.

Since then we’ve had contaminated land at Langstone Marina, Port Solent, Stamshaw School, Milton Common and the Moneyfield/Londmeadow allotment sites.

According to the council, mapping shows as much as 10 per cent of the city has been reclaimed from tips and the military has operated in most districts leaving its unique detritus.

So, it’s hardly surprising the council is being cautious. In its eyes it’s far better to be safe than sorry.

And with the city’s recent past history who can blame it.