COUNCIL chiefs have been blasted over plans to spend more than £1.3million cleaning up toxic land where they want to build houses.

North Ayrshire Council is to spend £1.325 million cleaning up decontaminated land in Irvine to make it safe for the new council homes.

A contamination report has revealed toxic levels of arsenic, copper, zinc and lead lie beneath the ground and residents and business owners say the contaminated land poses a threat and fear families could be at risk.

Members of the Save the Harbour campaign group, say council chiefs are putting them at risk, with one member even saying NAC are condemning them to “living in a Chernobyl”.

Jeanette Picken said: “If councillors lived here at Harbourside this would never happen they wouldn’t put their families at risk.”

Stuart Docherty added: “They must know the consequences of living in a Chernobyl.”

Ian Miller said: “What about airborne contamination from disturbance of the ground during decontamination on the residents already here.”

Housing chiefs plan to build 71 houses on the sit of the old magnum carpark and beyond.

If given the green light the homes will include  sheltered housing, family homes, bungalows and wheelchair accessible properties.

Business owner Gordon Rennie from Gro Coffee has been spearheading the campaign group against the housing plans but says NAC will “do what they like” because “people are apathetic”.

He said: “I wanted to fight this but ultimately, people will moan about it but no one really wants to properly challenge it. At the end of the day I can’t fight it myself so I have accepted if people are apathetic to things, the council will do what they like.

“It looks like it is going ahead no matter what the problems are, no matter what the people say, no matter what the contamination report says. They decided long ago that this will happen so I just feel like I am fighting a losing battle.”

The contamination report also says an old fuel tank used by the Magnum Leisure Centre will need to be removed.

More than 1,900 people have signed an online petition against the works, but council chiefs are carrying on with their plans, with construction is  scheduled to start early next year and residents could move in by spring 2021.

A North Ayrshire Council spokesman said: “Given the historical industrial nature of this site, we have been clear from the outset that decontamination works would be required before it could be brought back into use. The site conditions are typical of a previously-development brownfield site, and are something which the council and its contractors have significant experience in dealing with.

“Not only will it bring the site back into use after a long period, but it would ensure the site is clear of contaminants for years to come.”

The council said the £1.32 clean-up costs for the site are a fraction in comparison to the scale of investment coming to the area.

The council spokesman added: “The nature of the costs is not surprising and represents only a portion of the overall investment being made into transforming a brownfield site and only a fraction of the overall investment in the regeneration of the wider Harbourside area.”

“We will look to refine these costs where possible as well as seeking infrastructure funding costs from the Scottish Government.”