£6m housing estate to be demolished over toxic gas

The boarded-up homes of Newbyres Crescent. Picture: Julie Bull

The boarded-up homes of Newbyres Crescent. Picture: Julie Bull

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DOZENS of families are set to lose their homes under plans to demolish an entire estate blighted by toxic gas seeping into the properties.

The £6 million Newbyres Crescent development in Gorebridge opened just eight years ago but all 64 council houses could now be demolished amid safety fears over dioxide gas leaking into properties from mothballed coal mines.

Residents were expected to relocate for up to six months as engineers installed a protective membrane to block out the dangerous gases.

But now Midlothian Council chiefs plan to flatten and rebuild the entire estate – a move costing £12m – or demolish the properties and put the vacant land on the market.

And it is understood the local authority is considering legal action against the developers to recoup millions of pounds lost on the development.

It is believed the poisonous gas originates from coal mines. The gas is said to have penetrated homes due to a 25-year build-up of pressure.

The five worst-hit properties have already been evacuated.

Resident William Power, 67, said he feared there would be insufficient council properties to house the exodus from Newbyres.

“It’s just terrible,” he said. “The council has nowhere to put us and I think they should have told us [about the plans to demolish] sooner.

“They have known that they had to do this, they should have had a plan in place for us with somewhere to go. They are trying to say they’ve kept us up to date with things, but they’ve just delayed. It’s the council’s fault.”

Neighbour Dawn Mills, 30, said it was “not possible” to rehouse 64 families elsewhere in Gorebridge.

She said: “When I asked them last week at a meeting if it was an option to have the houses demolished, they couldn’t answer. They have lied to us.”

Last night, residents received a 14-page report indicating two preferred options – both involving demolition.

Labour councillor Jim Muirhead said he had always believed the issue would be resolved by installing gas membranes.

He said: “It was quite a shock to get the final report and see that the only two realistic options both involve the total demolition of the entire site.”

He called for a 70-house development planned for Gorebridge to be accelerated to accommodate the families affected.

Councillors are set to decide whether to approve demolition plans at a meeting on June 17.

A council spokesman said: “A multi-agency group involving the NHS and others called the Care for People group will be working with residents to ensure that their particular requirements are met and the disruption to their lives is minimised as much as possible.

“We are exploring a number of options and this work will accelerate once the detail around the final choice on what work will be happening is clear.”