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Residents in tax plea over clean-up

RESIDENTS of a Scottish village who are facing bills of more than £100,000 to decontaminate their gardens of dangerous chemicals have called for tax rules to be waived which they say are unfairly penalising them.

People living in Blanefield, ­Stirlingshire, need to pay between £14,000 and £102,000 to have the land made safe, with more than half the cost coming from a landfill tax designed to force companies to clean up industrial sites that fall out of use.

They want the UK Government to exempt them from the penalty and allow them to have the work done tax-free, potentially bringing costs down to a manageable level.

Problems surfaced in 2012 when a soil analysis carried out by the local council found traces of lead and arsenic which posed a "significant possibility of harm" to residents.

A group of 13 homes situated around Blane Avenue, Blane ­Crescent and Blane Place are affected, and work will now have to be carried out to dig up their gardens and replace much of the ground with clean soil.

The ground is the former site of the Blanefield Printworks, which closed more than a century ago, and it is thought the chemicals leaked into the ground from dye vats.

The contamination was found as part of a routine inspection of an area of Blanefield.

The print works were demolished more than one hundred years ago and the land lay dormant until a housing development was built there in the 1950s.

The plea came after a ­meeting between Blanefield resident Martin McGougan, Stirling MP Anne McGuire and Nicky Morgan MP, economic secretary to the Treasury, who is in charge of administering the landfill tax.

Mr McGougan, 42, said: "There is a legitimate reason for this tax, but it should not apply to residents such as us as it is designed to prevent firms from damaging the land and walking away.

"The problem is the Government does not want to waive it as it may create a precedent or a loophole which an unscrupulous company could exploit.

"During our meeting I was able to give Ms Morgan a residents' perspective on the physical and mental effects of being landed with this bill have had on all the residents. She listened to our concerns and was sympathetic."

The father-of-two added: "We are trying to get across the unfairness of this tax. The legislation behind it is not fit for purpose if it treats residents in the same way it does multinational companies."

Ms McGuire said the bill to clean up the land had "huge implications" for the families involved.

She said: "I have raised the impact that the levy of the Landfill Tax will have on these people who have found themselves in a predicament not of their making and one which has huge financial implications for them and their families.

"In addressing this issue in an adjournment debate in Parliament I put on public record that I could not believe that it was the intention of previous Governments, when introducing Landfill Tax rules to impose such a draconian burden on residents who inherited this remediation bill."

"I hope that, in raising the ­residents' concerns in Parliament, Treasury officials will seek the best possible outcome."

A Treasury spokesman said that they were sympathetic to the residents' concerns but no decisions had been made yet as the situation is still ongoing.

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