A leading estate agency has described a housing development as being in an “ideal location” – while omitting any reference to Northern Ireland’s biggest dump just 400 yards up the road.
The small housing development of about 10 houses is on the Sealstown Road, on the outskirts of the Co Antrim village of Mallusk in an area where there have been frequent complaints about a foul smell from the landfill site into which Belfast’s black bin waste is dumped.
Estate agent Simon Brien Residential’s promotional material for the Cottonmount Manor development claims that they “enjoy an ideal location” amid “picturesque surroundings and rural charm” in a “delightful environment”.
However, it omits to mention that the site is yards from a former landfill site which now has been covered over and that just behind that site sits the huge dump into which waste from Belfast as well as Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is buried.
The News Letter asked Simon Brien why it had not mentioned the dump but several times the firm has declined to comment (see panel, right).
Since 2006, over 2.2 million tonnes of waste have been dumped at the site, which is expected to remain operational for many years.
A major working quarry is just behind the landfill site, while the development also backs directly onto a major concrete plant.
The estate agent’s brochure includes a map to illustrate where the development is situated. The map omits any mention of the nearby dump, despite including Jordanstown train station, some six miles away, and Fortwilliam Golf Club, which is seven miles away in Belfast.
A resident who lives about half a mile from the new development contacted the News Letter to express her surprise when she saw the houses being built so close to the landfill site and the quarry.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said: “I thought about potential buyers – would they have done their homework beforehand to realise they were getting into a situation with the smell and the quarry blasting about two or three times a month?”
Several of the houses have already sold, although they are still being built.
When told that the estate agent had described the location as “ideal”, Richard Gregory, chairman of Mallusk Community Action Group, said that problems with the dump had improved in recent years, but that the smell remains an issue.
He said that his group gets reports of the stench being smelt a couple of miles away on the Hightown Road.
Mr Gregory said that he lives about half a mile from the dump and the development is about half way between his house and the landfill site.
He said that the increase in recycling over recent years meant that the dump was not operating to the capacity originally envisaged, despite the recent opening of an asbestos disposal facility on the site. But that meant, he said, that the landfill site was likely to last for many decades – and for much longer than initially envisaged when it opened.
He said: “It is a working landfill site, and because of that we do get smells.
“They do spend an awful lot of time and money with guys doing some more capping [covering the waste] – they are reducing the actual open size of the tipping area because with recycling becoming more and more popular there is less to tip up there.”
The estate agent’s brochure – which makes the claim about the location being “ideal” – contains a disclaimer in very small type on the final page of the brochure which states that potential purchasers should not rely on any of the statements made by the estate agent.
It states: “None of the statements contained in these particulars are to be relied on as statements or representations of fact and intending purchasers must satisfy themselves by inspection or otherwise correctness of each of the statements contained in these particulars.”
Last August, Biffa, the company which runs the landfill site, denied residents’ claims that it had reduced its manpower at the site over the summer, leading to swarms of flies.
A company spokeswoman said at the time: “Landfill sites can be perceived as encouraging greater than normal levels of flying insects.
“To avoid this possibility at Mallusk, we have a local contractor who applies approved insecticides daily to proactively mitigate any possible problems.”
Company declines to comment
The News Letter contacted Simon Brien Residential a month ago to ask why it had described the location as “ideal”.
We even offered the company the space in which to give its side of the story in a 300-word statement.
The company passed the issue to its lawyers who responded last week with a three-page legal letter, the contents of which they have asked us not to publish.
The News Letter had asked the company two questions: Why does Simon Brien describe the development as an “ideal location” when it is so close to a landfill site?
Why does the map in the brochure include landmarks as far away as seven miles, yet makes no reference to the nearby dump?
In the three-page legal letter the firm said it had “absolutely no reply” to the questions.
We replied to the legal letter urging the estate agency to set out its version of the issue and gave the firm until this week to respond. However, there has been no response from the company.
In an earlier email from a member of staff at the company, the News Letter was warned that it would face legal action to secure “substantial compensation against you together with our legal costs” if we published “defamatory remarks” which led to “reputational damage”.
Awful smell remains a problem, says local MP
South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan, who lives several miles down the road from Mallusk in the neighbouring village of Templepatrick, said that the estate agent should “come clean” about the situation with the dump.
The Ulster Unionist politician said that he continues to receive complaints about the dump, mainly because of the “awful smell”, but said that past problems with swarms of flies appeared to have been rectified.
However, Mr Kinahan said that to the best of his knowledge the issue has not adversely affected house prices in the village, which is eight miles from Belfast city centre.
A local resident told the News Letter that despite the problems with the dump the village was generally quiet as a place to live and had good transport links to nearby Belfast.
Mr Kinahan said that the operator of the landfill site was making an effort to address the issues but in terms of the smell, it depended on the weather, wind direction and other environmental factors.
“They have cleaned up the dirt and the flies well, but the smell is the one that would keep coming up,” he said.
He said that the landfill company “do work really hard and help – they just fail I’m afraid, because the gas comes out of it in different ways”.