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Case-study: Corby Steelworks

In the 1980s, Corby Borough Council acquired a large tract of contaminated land from the British Steel Corporation. It wished to regenerate the land following the closure of the steel works. Years of steel manufacture meant that the soil on the site contained toxic substances.

The council constructed a tip to for the contaminated soils and transported hundreds of lorry loads of soil along the roads in Corby linking road the former steelwork sites to the tip.

A number of children were born in the Corby area between 1986 and 1999 with deformities of their upper limbs. The mothers of these children lived close to or had contact with this area at the time of the works, which coincided with their pregnancies. They formed the Corby Litigation Group representing 18 children born during this period. The group alleged that the reclamation works created toxic dust, mud and sludges along the public roads between the sites.

The group sued Corby Borough Council for damages for personal injury allegedly caused by the council's negligent handling of the contaminated soils. In the High Court the judge found that the negligence of the Council could have caused the injuries complained of. It was said that the Council:

“bit off more than it could chew and did not really appreciate the enormity, ramifications and difficulty of what it was setting out to achieve in terms of removing and depositing very substantial quantities of contaminated material."

The case did not determine which children could recover, and how much they would receive. This was to be determined at a later hearing. But that hearing never took place because, shortly after the case, Corby Council agreed a settlement with the families, though the amount of compensation remained confidential under the settlement agreement.

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