Deadly gas forces more Gorebridge families from homes

David Thomas, Heather Thomas, Cheryl Robertson and Andrena Ferguson of 42-48 Newbyres Avenue Gorebridge who have been evacuated from their homes.
David Thomas, Heather Thomas, Cheryl Robertson and Andrena Ferguson of 42-48 Newbyres Avenue Gorebridge who have been evacuated from their homes.

Four families have been re-housed because of potentially deadly gas emissions, just two years after a nearby street was evacuated.

The properties on Newbyres Avenue were evacuated by Melville Housing Association in September but now the families, amid claims of a cover-up, are angry at how they have been treated.

Melville’s chief executive admitted having sympathy for the re-housed tenants and, with other homes on the street being monitored, he is hopeful of resolving the situation as quickly as possible.

Nearby Newbyres Crescent was completely evacuated, and later demolished, after six residents were hospitalised in September 2013 with suspected poisoning from carbon dioxide escaping from former coal shafts below.

It was later found that those homes had not been fitted with the protective gas membranes needed when building on top of former mine workings. The Newbyres Avenue development also has no gas membranes as site investigation work before it was built in 2008 indicated no such measures were required.

This latest evacuation in Gorebridge has infuriated the four families involved.

Cheryl Robertson (38), who is a full-time carer for her autistic son, said: “We have had to fight absolutely everything. Now we have had enough. Melville has not dealt with this at all well. The way we have been treated is a farce. Some of us have had to take on debt. It’s hard enough looking after my son but this is too much.”

Following complaints from residents falling ill, the block of four homes was fitted with gas alarms in September.

Cheryl said: “When the guy put the alarm in he didn’t even get to his car and it was going off. My next door neighbour got moved out first, then three days later we got moved to a bed and breakfast.

“My white blood cells have been all over the place in the last couple of years. The Royal Infirmary said it was the Co2, as I was fine before. There have certainly been big changes for the better in both of us since we left.”

Cheryl’s former neighbour, Heather Thomas (54), who was told to pack and leave immediately, added: “It’s ridiculous. Melville is basically trying to keep this hush hush.”

Heather, who claimed that more homes were to be evacuated, said she missed her neighbours: “We were our own wee community, the four of us in that block. Now that’s been broken up.”

Fellow former neighbour Andrena Ferguson (48) is worried about her mum and sister who still live in the street. She also claims that the whole experience has left her £5500 out of pocket after Melville failed to fully reimburse her for fittings that could not be moved, saying: “My husband and I had worked hard for what we had so we don’t see why we should be out of pocket for something that’s not our fault. It’s disgusting.”

Andrew Noble, chief executive of Melville Housing Association, said: “Our aim is to support all residents in establishing a long-term solution. Keeping residents safe is, and always will be, our first priority.

“We’re aware of how disruptive this whole situation is and have sympathy for the four households affected. We did our best to work closely with them at what was a difficult and challenging time, keeping in daily contact and doing everything we could to meet their individual needs.”

The evacuation of nearby Newbyres Crescent was completed in 2015 and the street was demolished last year, with all 64 families relocated by Midlothian Council.

A Midlothian Council spokesman said of this latest incident: “We are continuing to work with Melville Housing, public health experts at NHS Lothian and other agencies, including the Coal Authority, to investigate and monitor the issue.”

Melville Housing said it will monitor the street until the end of the month to identify the exact nature and extent of the problem. 

Mr Noble added: “Once monitoring is complete we will be in a position to identify what further steps we need to take to address this problem. In the meantime we would ask any Melville tenant in the area who has concerns about their home to contact us directly.”