Yorkshire-based remediation specialist ESG Trading has acquired the former Turner Brothers Asbestos factory off Spod Road and plans to spend £15m cleaning up the site for redevelopment.
ESG acquired the 111-acre Spodden Valley site from Renshaw Properties, a firm based in the British Virgin Islands, for an undisclosed sum.
“The former Turner Brothers Asbestos site provides a potential opportunity to contribute to the future growth of Rochdale,” said Martin Greenwood, chairman of ESG.
“But this can only be realised by a careful, considered and safe strategy to decontaminate, demolish and remediate the land.”
ESG’s acquisition reignites the possibility of the site being redeveloped into housing, an idea that has proved contentious in the past.
Following the closure of the factory, the site became mired in controversy when it was bought by Heywood-based MMC Land & Regeneration in 2004.
MMC wanted to create a £100m urban village on the site in joint venture with Countryside Properties but the plans were met with fierce criticism by campaigners who claimed the land was unsafe.
Subsequent site investigations have demonstrated that the site is contaminated.
Rochdale Council refused the JV’s application for 600 homes in 2011. Shortly after, MMC withdrew its application and sold the land to Renshaw.
Greenwood added: “I am very aware of the sensitivities that have surrounded previous attempts to regenerate the site and my team are in ongoing discussions with Rochdale Council, the Environment Agency and the Health & Safety Executive, to develop a remediation strategy that exceeds statutory requirements.”
Thought to have once been the world’s largest asbestos manufacturing centre, the Rochdale facility ceased production of the harmful material in the 1990s, more than 100 years after it was founded in 1871.
Turner Brothers Asbestos, which later became Turner & Newall, filed for bankruptcy in 2001 in the face of huge compensation demands from former workers.
The business, which had been acquired by Federal-Mogul in 1998, collapsed with a reported pension deficit of £400m.
ESG, which specialises in decontaminating and remediating complex brownfield sites, aims to engage fully with the public on its proposals.
“Over the coming weeks, survey work will begin and residents may notice increased activity across the site,” Greenwood said.
“This vital survey work will inform the remediation strategy and has been agreed with regulators. No remediation work will begin without all relevant approvals being in place.
“My team are also aware of the level of interest from the local community about the site. While we do not have all of the answers at the moment, we look forward to introducing ourselves to local residents over the coming weeks and will take an open and transparent approach to information sharing.”