Rubble heap mars revamped play area

A huge pile of rubble and soil contaminated with lead has been left for months next to a play park in Clifton. Contractors left the giant spoil heap in May after carrying out drainage works and are in dispute with Bristol City Council over who should pay for its expensive removal.

Earlier this year, Bailey Civils carried out extensive drainage works to the Suspension Bridge play park, off Observatory Road. The park had faced issues for years of being too muddy and wet in autumn and winter.

The contractors won a £134,000 job from the council to install a new drainage system at the play park, and initially were supposed to spread the leftover topsoil over the Downs. But after they found out the material was contaminated with lead, they left the pile fenced off and under a tarpaulin.

Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke, representing Clifton, said people were “very annoyed” about the spoil heap. She told a Downs committee meeting on September 18 that neither the contractors nor the council wanted to pay to take it away.

Cllr O’Rourke said: “Everybody in Clifton is very annoyed about it. As part of the original bid, the contractors said that they would take out the residue topsoil and spread it over the Downs. When it was taken out, it was discovered that it was contaminated with lead. It’s not dangerous but obviously it can’t be spread around the Downs.

“It’s now become very expensive to remove it. We were given a figure of around £65,000. Of course the construction firm is refusing to pay it. The council, I think quite rightly, is saying we’re not going to spend taxpayer’s money on this unless we have to, so they’re in dispute about who’s going to pay for it.”

A business owned by a Merchant Venturer could potentially remove the spoil heap at cost, halving the  cost to the taxpayer, the committee heard. But Cllr O’Rourke suggested the council’s legal department might be “cumbersome” in allowing this deal to go ahead.

She added: “We’re trying to see if the legal department at Bristol City Council will allow this to go ahead. There’s issues around procurement, but we’ve managed to get it under £25,000. Hopefully we can make that happen.

“Instead of everybody going ‘oh, the play park looks really nice’, they’re actually not saying that. The quality of the work does not seem to be very satisfactory and there have been complaints. There does need to be some accountability for the contractors on the state of the work.

“We really need to get rid of the spoil heap, because of course nobody says the playground looks nice, they just ask why that spoil heap is there. It’s also on one of the new wildflower beds that we put in, so it’s destroying that too.”

Both Bailey Civils and Bristol City Council were approached for comment.

by Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service