Controversial plans for a major housing scheme next to the old Marchon site have been lodged with Copeland Council.

Gleeson Homes wants to build 40 houses on the former Rhodia office site on land at Water’s Edge in Kells, Whitehaven.

However, concerns have been raised over the proposed development ­— with contaminated land, school places and increased traffic, all cited as reasons for the plans to be rejected.

Chris Hayes, the mayor of Whitehaven, who represents Kells on the town council, said: “The schools are already full. Where are these children going to go? There’s a waiting list for the schools. I can’t see it working unless they build another school.

Coun Chris Hayes

Coun Chris Hayes

“All the extra traffic into town on that hill. It’s the infrastructure that worries me. We need the infrastructure in place before they start building any more.

“I know the people at Kells are really worried about it.”

Cllr Hayes, who previously worked at Marchon, recalled the amount of pollution produced by the factory years ago.

“I remember slick of soap suds at people’s doors. I remember the houses on Woodhouse having to get the windows repainted because of the fallout from the factory," he said.

“How are they going to build on it? I wouldn’t buy one personally.”

John Kane, who represents Kells on Copeland Council, said: “I’ve got concerns. It’s quite bad for parking up there.

“The impact on the school and the residents. They’re just building these houses ­— there’s no benefit to the community ­— no play areas, or schools, or services.

“It’s the volume of houses. I don’t think it’s been thought through properly.

“The road is bad enough now, especially at school times.”

The scheme includes a mix of two to four-bedroom houses, with four homes being offered as affordable housing.

An environmental report submitted with the application revealed there was potential contamination and soil gas risks from the former chemical works.

The report says: “It is understood that the wider Rhodia Chemical Works extending to the south of the current development site manufactured naphthalene and coal distillate firelighters, sulphuric acid, cement plant, phosphate, phosphoric acid, fatty alcohol, surfactants and oil additives. It is unknown what specific process activities were undertaken within the site boundary of the current proposed development.”

However, the report goes on to say that a review of the available records implies the site was “predominantly utilised as office, warehouse and storage space”, with the main chemical works to the south.

A spokesman for Gleeson Homes said: “We specialise in providing quality affordable homes where there is a need. On every development that we build in Cumbria, a young couple on the National Living Wage can afford to buy a home with Gleeson.

“At Water’s Edge, we are looking to provide 40 such homes.

“There has been strong demand for our homes in the Whitehaven and we have seen young local people from Whitehaven buy homes on our Florence Drive site in Egremont or inquire about both Water’s Edge, Whitehaven and Ivy Mill, Hensingham.

“We don’t just build homes ­— we contribute financially towards local infrastructure, too.

“We have committed to pay over £2m to date towards education on our existing and future sites in Cumbria and we always work closely with Cumbria County Council to ensure our buyers can not only get on the housing ladder, but start a family and know their children can attend local schools. Some housebuilders prefer to build homes on green fields, but our preference is actually to build home on brownfield land.

“We are experienced in remediating and bringing back into use brownfield sites that would otherwise remain derelict and are therefore looking forward to remediating and bringing back into use this brownfield site at Whitehaven.

“We work closely with Cumbria Highways to ensure our developments have safe access and that we don’t cause any problems to the local infrastructure


The Marchon factory closed in 2005 and was demolished in 2012.