PEOPLE hoping to move into 95 new affordable homes on a former football club's ground are facing delays and upheaval as soil at the site is tested for waste asbestos.

The new homes are being developed for Together Housing with a building contractor at Dark Lane in Newchurch, near Waterfoot, a Rossendale Council committee has been told.

But topsoil at the old Rossendale FC ground is being tested for potential asbestos and people are having to live elsewhere until the tests are complete.

Soil may need to be removed, if it is contaminated, borough councillors understand.

Conservative councillor David Foxcroft told the borough's overview and scrutiny committee: “I know there has been quite a complex situation and it was having a significant impact on residents. Is there an option to move the land and replace it?  The properties were put forward for people to bid for.”

Mandy Lewis, the borough's economic development director, said: “Contracts have ceased but there are issues with Together Housing and others on how to re-mediate the site, which has already been developed.

“The site has been sampled and a report has to be reviewed to check further sampling is acceptable. The site could be worked on as a whole or plot-by-plot. Moving 200 metres of top soil is difficult. The developer is looking at the situation.

“If [soil] samples are clear then we can get people back. I truly hope those samples come back clear. We will do whatever we can to get those people into their homes. Even if has to be done plot-by-plot, we will do it.”

Ms Lewis said any suggestion the asbestos issue was because the planning system process had somehow ‘failed’ was wrong.

She said: “I have spoken to Together Housing to make sure this does not happen again.  This has contributed to our homelessness numbers. That then becomes an issue for other landlords. Residents think they were getting their properties. It’s stressful and challenging.

“If residents have had to put their belongings into storage then Together Housing will meet those costs."

Labour's Cllr Patrick Marriott said: “I would have thought an organisation as big as Together Housing would manage contractors properly.

"It’s right Rossendale Council has acted to protect public health, protect the residents who would take these houses and other residents in the area.”

George Paterson, Together's executive property director, said: “Together Housing Group has been working in partnership with our contractor to develop 95 much-needed homes for affordable rent.

"The soil testing is a requirement of the planning consent issued by Rossendale Council. Testing has recently been completed and we are waiting for the planning authority to confirm acceptance of the results and issue approval.

"We will then start the handover process and aim to have all homes allocated and tenanted in the next few months.”