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New Eling Wharf owners promise to tackle poisonous land contamination

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Eling Wharf was sold to Southampton port operator ABP for £14m by Burt Boulton Holdings Ltd
Eling Wharf was sold to Southampton port operator ABP for £14m by Burt Boulton Holdings Ltd

THE new owners of Eling Wharf are set to begin cleaning up the polluted site after traces of arsenic, lead and mercury were discovered.

As previously reported in the A&T, nearly £14m was paid by Southampton port owners ABP last year for the prime waterside site in Totton, which ended long-running plans to redevelop it with new homes and businesses.

The 41-acre site off the A35, which overlooks the River Test, was formerly owned by land investor Burt Boulton Holdings Ltd (BBH). Areas of the site are currently leased to around 24 businesses.

Speaking to members of Totton and Eling Town Council at its meeting last Wednesday, port director Alistair Welsh said serious contamination issues at the wharf were now being addressed.

“We are now progressing to clean up the site,” he said. “Booms have been put in place to prevent seepage [into the water] and bore holes have been made in the ground to clean up the pollution.”

He said ABP had no long-term plans for the site, but would continue to maintain its current use as well as making improvements. This includes improving the circulation of the traffic onsite and potentially moving some businesses further into the wharf and away from the housing boundary to help with noise problems. An acoustic fence has also been installed.

Mr Welsh said new housing was “not realistic” currently, due to the pollution, but that in the longer term he would like to see a mixed development of commercial business and potentially, housing. But he added: “Truly, we have not got that far yet.”

When asked by councillors about the recent increase in the number of containers stored at the wharf, he agreed that there were more than usual and admitted he would prefer them to be kept at the port, but there was a lack of space currently.

Councillors welcomed his offer to engage with them on future long-term proposals when the time comes.

For years BBH had been developing what it described as “once in a lifetime” plans to transform the heavily-polluted land into a new neighbourhood of 350 homes, plus shops and businesses, creating hundreds of jobs.

Issues facing the former landowner, which has never commented on the sale, included clean-up costs following industry activities, including chemicals, coal and shipbuilding, thought to go back to the Medieval times.

In 2010, about 70 contaminants were identified there by New Forest District Council, including arsenic, lead and mercury. Some work was done to tackle pollution on the foreshore, which had to be closed temporarily.

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