PLANS to clear an arson-hit former chemical plant ahead of a multi-million pound housing development could move a step closer in the next couple of weeks.
Bosses at Starford Holdings, which own the former Steetley site, are set to meet with Hartlepool Borough Council officers to get approval for their plans to clear, level and decontaminate the site.
Developers already have planning permission for ambitious plans to build 484 luxury sea-view homes on the site in Old Cemetery Road.
But before construction work can start on the site – which was subject to the Mail’s Sort Out Steetley campaign – developers need permission from the council as part of a legal agreement.
It has been almost a year since the £100m housing project plans were finally approved by the Government.
Nick Blezard, of Starford Holdings, said: “We are due to meet with the council within the next couple of weeks, at which we hope to get final agreement to allow us to proceed with plans to clear and decontaminate the site.
“We would then need to go out to tender to get estimates for the work.
“I would hope that we would be in a position to start work on the site within the next two to three months.”
A council spokesman said: “As part of the planning permission which we granted to Starford for housing on the site, Starford is required to submit to us for approval its plans for clearance of the site, including dealing with any asbestos.
“We are currently in discussions with Starford to ensure that those plans are acceptable to us.”
Developers and council chiefs have also moved to reassure residents that asbestos contaminated material on the site does not pose any danger.
The council spokesman added: “In September/October 2010 our public protection team investigated a complaint about the presence of asbestos on the site.
“This detailed investigation included an inspection of the site.
“We took no further action as the asbestos on the site did not constitute a public health nuisance.
“We have not received any further such complaints.”
Mr Blezard said Starford was aware that asbestos-contaminated materials are on the site, but it is not dangerous and the company is acting in line with council and Environment Agency guidelines.
The plans to transform the former chemical works, which has deteriorated into a notorious eyesore over recent years, was finally approved last March.
The council’s planning committee had approved the plans the year before, but the decision was called in by the Secretary of State at the time, John Denham.
He finally rubber-stamped the plans last year despite his inspector Trevor Cookson recommending it should be refused due to transport issues.
Starford Holdings, formerly Culford Properties, entered its initial application in 2005 after doing three years of work on the project.