Compensation finally on horizon for factory plagued Wollaston residents

Stourbridge News: The old Caparo Aluminium Technologies factory. The old Caparo Aluminium Technologies factory.

RESIDENTS whose lives were blighted by pollution from a Wollaston factory finally look set to receive the compensation they were promised after Dudley Council was found guilty of maladministration.

The Local Government Ombudsman ordered back in March that £7,000 should be paid to members of the Caparo Action Group after the council was found guilty of ‘maladministration causing injustice’ for failing to take swift action against Caparo Aluminium Technologies.

Those living at 27 households closest to the factory in Wollaston Road were promised a payout of £250 each but they had heard nothing since and were starting to wonder when they would receive the cash.

However Dudley Council’s cabinet now looks set to vote through the payouts at next week’s meeting at the Council House on Wednesday June 20.

The Ombudsman ordered the council to pay up by way of an apology for not acting sooner to stop the noise, stench and sand emissions coming from the factory.

Residents, however, have yet to hear which households in affected streets including Hollybush Lane, Apley Road and Richardson Drive have been earmarked for compensation.

Campaign chairman Steve Sharples said: “It’s been three months and we still don’t know who is going to get compensation.

“I’m annoyed about it as the council won’t tell me how they are deciding which 27 houses will receive it.

“I think that’s extremely unfair and it’s going to upset a lot of people that they can’t be honest and open and say these are the people who will get the money. I’m a little concerned at the attitude of the council. They seem to be saying they will decide who was more affected than anybody else.”

Local Government Ombudsman Jane Martin said in her report 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 and she said she believed “a successful prosecution could have improved conditions for residents at a much earlier date”.

Councillor Les Jones, who was leader of the council at the time of the Ombudsman’s decision, maintained the council was “right to try to protect jobs” at Caparo, which eventually closed in December 2010, but he conceded the authority “didn’t do the job well enough”.

However in a report to the council’s cabinet committee director of the urban environment John Millar has now said Dudley Council was “disappointed with the conclusion that the Ombudsman has come to”.

He said the “council did investigate complaints, keep the complainants informed as to progress and worked with the company to progress complex technical issues as quickly as possible”.

And he added: “At all times the council had regard to the impact on residents as well as the requirements placed on a key employer.”

Members of the Caparo Action Group said they never wanted the factory to close and workers to lose their jobs but they simply could not put up with being unable to open their windows, sit in their gardens or hang washing out any longer.

Many also complained of breathing and respiratory problems and sleep deprivation which they attributed to the factory.

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