Demolition work begins on gas street

Council leader Cath Johnstone and councillor Jim Muirhead at the entrance to Newbyres Crescent
Council leader Cath Johnstone and councillor Jim Muirhead at the entrance to Newbyres Crescent

Demolition work began last week on the Gorebridge street which had to be evacuated after traces of carbon dioxide gas were found there.

The demolition excavator was on site last Tuesday morning to tackle the first of 64 council homes to be demolished, 18A Newbyres Crescent. Residents were rehoused last year after elevated levels of carbon dioxide from old mine workings were found in some of the properties in 2013.

Confirmation that work is now underway to clear the site has been welcomed by local councillors.

Council leader Catherine Johnstone (SNP), said: “After a disappointing and extremely anxious period for everyone concerned especially former tenants and residents, the council is now in the position to have these homes demolished, ground works undertaken and preparation starting for the new homes to be built.

“That work will begin later this year and allocation will be in 2017.

“During the period of concern the council worked with many partners - NHS Lothian, Public Health, Environmental Health, local GPs, landlords and others to ensure the safety of tenants and residents.

“Some folk moved into a variety of different tenures with some choosing to remain there.

“Others have requested alternative accommodation and a return to Gorebridge, and some would like to return to the new houses on this site.”

Councillor Jim Muirhead (Lab), said: “It’s moving forward anyway. The sooner it gets demolished the sooner can get round to rebuilding the site. We don’t want a boarded up site lying there in the centre of the community for too long.

“These things do take a period of time to get everything set up. But obviously getting it demolished is the first stage.

“And hopefully we will move on as quickly as we can from there. That would be welcomed.”

Costs of the demolition and rebuilding work are estimated to be around £12 million. With Councillor Johnstone adding that “legal actions are continuing.”

The houses were built from 2007 to 2009 without special protective barriers - known as gas membranes - underneath.

The carbon dioxide problem came to light in September 2013 when two people had to receive hospital treatment.

The demolition, by Reigart Contracts, is expected to take up to eight weeks. The majority of the waste generated, such as the brick, timber and plastic, will all be recycled.

Prior to redevelopment of the site, further investigation, ground gas monitoring and risk assessment will take place. Appropriately designed, installed and verified gas defence systems will be included within the building structures and within the site itself to avoid a risk of carbon dioxide exposure.