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Factory plagued Amblecote residents finally receive compensation
RESIDENTS living near the old Caparo factory in Wollaston have finally received promised compensation payouts for the years of pollution misery they suffered until the plant closed.
People living at 27 properties in Hollybush Lane, Amblecote, who bore the brunt of the stench, sand particles and noise emitted from the canal-side Caparo Aluminium Technologies factory, have been handed cheques for £250 each by way of an apology from Dudley Council for not acting sooner to stop to the problem.
The council was ordered by the Local Government Ombudsman in March to pay out a total of £7,000 after the authority was found guilty of ‘maladministration causing injustice’ for failing to take swift action against the firm - which closed of its own accord in December 2010.
Roger Kendrick, of the Caparo Action Group, which campaigned tirelessly on behalf of residents to resolve the matter, said the amount of money handed out was “derisory”.
He said “the least it should have been was £250 a year and it should have covered a period of three years” - although residents living in the shadow of the Wollaston Road factory had been complaining for well over seven years about the site, which was home to Zeus Aluminium before Caparo took over.
Mr Kendrick said he was also surprised people living in nearby Apley Road and Richardson Drive, some of whom were thought likely to receive compensation, were denied payouts.
Caparo Action Group chairman Steve Sharples said he was glad the saga was “finished” but added: “No-one’s won in many ways.”
Hollybush Lane resident Dennis Baggott said: “It’s brought closure to it now but there are no winners in this - people lost their jobs and we’ve suffered horrendously over the years. No amount of money can compensate for that.
"I’m glad it’s all over and done with - and it’s really nice down here now.”
Ombudsman Jane Martin said the foundry had been “a source of considerable annoyance to local residents” and there was a “clear injustice” as the council had taken from March 2007, when Caparo submitted an application to operate, to May 2010 to issue a permit with appropriate conditions.
She said the council’s legal officer considered it would have been possible to prosecute the firm from January 2008 if necessary evidence had been gathered.
Councillor Les Jones, leader of the council at the time of the Ombudsman’s decision, conceded the authority “didn’t do the job well enough”.
Residents - a number of whom blamed the factory for health issues such as breathing and respiratory problems and sleep deprivation - said compensation was never a priority; they just wanted to be able to open their windows, sit in their gardens and hang their washing out.
Kate Bennett, of Apley Road, who complained repeatedly of being unable to sleep at night because of the noise, did not receive a payout but said: “Being able to lie in bed with the windows open at night is more than enough compensation for us.”