Calls for potential deal with company under investigation by SEPA to be put on hold

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The company behind a £112 million housing plan for Braidbar Quarry in Giffnock is being probed by environmental watchdogs, The Extra can reveal.

Late last year, East Renfrewshire Council began what could become a partnership deal with Lanarkshire-based Advance Construction Scotland Ltd to remediate the toxic quarry.

The report from the council’s director of environment Andrew Cahill which recommended the tie-up failed to point out that Advance had previously received two ‘final warning’ letters from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

The disused quarry neighbouring Huntly Park is known to contain a cocktail of poisons, including Nickel, Cadmium, Zinc and Lead.

Now it can now be disclosed that on top of the official warnings, Advance now face possible court action from SEPA.

Independent Councillor David Macdonald said he is writing to Mr Cahill and council chief executive Lorraine McMillan to call for the deal with Advance to be suspended.

He said:”There are parallels here with the licensing system.

“If someone is applying to the council for a licence – like a taxi driver – the outcome of that application is suspended if they are the subject of an on-going criminal investigation.

“I think it would be prudent to do the same in this case.

“If a company is being investigated and is possibly being taken to court on environmental charges, it would be good to pause and await the legal outcome.”

Cllr Macdonald added: “We owe that duty of care to the people who pay their council tax.”

The latest action against Advance was revealed in a Freedom of Information response from SEPA, the guardians of Scotland’s environment.

The government agency was asked to provide “all information” on Advance since the two ‘final warnings’ were issued in 2012.

SEPA replied that it was prevented from providing the information, as it could “prejudice substantially the course of justice, the ability of a person to receive a fair trial or the ability of any public authority to conduct an inquiry of a criminal or disciplinary nature”.

Asked specifically if Advance were under investigation, SEPA added: “SEPA can confirm investigations are ongoing which incorporate Advance Construction Scotland Limited and as such, at this point in time we are not in a position to comment further.”

It is not known why Advance are under investigation. Neither is it known when – or if – the council was aware of the probe when it began its association with Advance last October.

An East Renfrewshire Council spokesman said: “As has previously been outlined, this is the early stages of a potential agreement with Advance Construction and any due diligence will be carried out at the appropriate stage and reported back to council.”

A spokesman for Advance Construction Scotland Ltd said: “Due to the scale of our business operations and the nature of our work, we are in regular dialogue with SEPA and other local authorities.

“As a business with over two decades of industry experience, we are committed to working with partners to ensure best practice is followed at all times.”