Saturday, 19 May 2012

Shepherd’s Bush Green works halted: Contamination found

Helicopter whipping up the ground (c/o @ellazwart)
The works on the Green have been halted amid fears of contamination, which has been discovered by those contractors on the site.

I understand the works are now 12 weeks behind schedule and will not be completed until September at the earliest.

The precise nature of the contamination is not clear but it appears to relate to the disposal of old waste in the aftermath of the second world war.

I first heard about this yesterday, as ever from a reader, and approached the council. With full credit to them they have passed me the following information from an internal briefing, so many thanks indeed for that:

"The contamination relates to what is known as 'made ground' which is fill brought in from somewhere else to build up the ground. This is likely to have occurred post war at Shepherds Bush, and the fill was probably from excavations from building sites in the area where the ground was contaminated, primarily with arsenic and lead. The good news is that this doesn't impact on the eventual public use of the site as it is well below the surface layer and will have a further cap of soil and turf on top of it to ensure it is completely safe.

Why its discovery caused a delay?


Once discovered further samples had to be taken and analysed to determine its extent and then a management strategy developed and agreed. Including how it should be handled by contractors digging into it, stockpiling and disposing of it, the objective being to ensure workers were safe, no cross contamination occurred and it was disposed of correctly in the event any needed to be disposed of".

To me this also has implications for the financing of the works themselves, with the Council likely to be looking at a much higher bill than was originally anticipated. The works were part financed by the Westfield shopping centre as part of the deal struck between the retail giant and our local authority – but I doubt that extra costs like this were part of the package.

The Olympic Torch is due to pass through Hammersmith & Fulham on 26th July, and this work will clearly not be done by then so I suspect the torch may not be wending its way through the Bush! I understand that the majority of the site will be reopened to the public at the end of July with the playgrounds due to be installed during August/September.

This is of course the latest unscheduled halt to this long runing project that was supposed to have been carried out years ago, but fell victim to yet another argument between our Council and local residents. 

So what do we need to know, as Bushers then?

I’d say the following would be good for starters:
  1. What exactly is the ground contaminated with and is it a hazard?
  2. What is the new date for completion of the works or has that even been agreed yet? 
  3. Who will pay for the extra costs to de-contaminate the site? Us the taxpayers?
Watch this space for the answers…and you know where you read it first! 

Monday UPDATE – Meanwhile I have been on to the police to understand why the helicopter pictured above landed in the patch of ground that we now know to be contaminated with arsenic and lead. Whipping up clouds of dust which many of you reported seeing around tea time on Saturday.

The police don’t seem to have any records of the incident at first glance but are looking into it.

Watch this space – the dead tree press have not reported either the contamination of the ground or anything about the helicopter incident.

Monday 1325 UPDATE - The Council have just responded to my story with this quote:

Cllr Greg Smith, cabinet member for residents’ services, said: “Despite this unfortunate news, the vast majority of Shepherds Bush Green will be open and accessible in time for the Olympic Games. There are always hold-ups with projects of this size and nature but we have now developed a strategy to deal with the problem.

“I would like to stress that the contamination is deep under the ground and there is no risk to the general public. However, with our contractors digging deep below the ground, the council has had no choice but to delay certain elements of the project.

The improvement scheme will undoubtedly benefit everyone who lives near, visits or works in and around Shepherds Bush and will certainly be well worth waiting for.”

Amusingly on their website the Council say that they are "today announcing" the delays - funny that - since the story appeared on Saturday. So what that means is that without readers of this blog getting it up on here by passing it on, we would all be none the wiser, and today's 'announcement' would presmably not have been made! 

1420 UPDATE - and lo, days later, the dead tree press have caught up with this story here. Without a mention of where it came from. Shocka.


  1. The work or non work has been puzzling me for a while-cheers for providing an answer.

  2. I think it would be great if the torch came through the Bush still. Everyone would love to see it suddenly flare up and burn green!

  3. Did anyone see the air ambulance land there yesterday (Saturday) at about 4.30pm? They circled a few times, seemingly unsure about landing on the green, but went ahead with it anyway. They landed next to a pile of rubble and a cloud of dust flew everywhere. Good to know it's got lots of toxic waste in it, eh?

  4. Ssshhhhh..... don't want to knock the house prices!

  5. Re The helicopter, I heard a man fell off some scaffolding in Wood Lane.Not sure what the end result was, but apparently the Police did'nt hang around for long after he went off in a Ambulance, so hopefully was not a serious as first thought.

  6. I wonder why a soil survey in advance did not reveal anything.