Chip Factory Blamed For Homes Slipping Into Sea

A housing estate inhabited largely by elderly residents is slipping off a cliff and into the North Sea because of a "river of fat" from the local chip factory, they claim.

Six homes have already perished off Knipe Point near Scarborough because of a landslide that residents say is "man-made".

According to a report commissioned by the residents' association, which represents the 56-home estate, leaking from pipes carrying effluent from the McCain Foods chip factory is partly to blame for the landslips.

The crumbling cliff has blighted the lives of those living there since 2008 and six of the homes on the edge have had to be bulldozed because they are too dangerous for people to live in.

Kane Cunningham is the latest to be ordered by the council to rip his home down because it is a risk.

Mr Cunningham, an artist, bought his home in 2009 for £3,000 as part of an art project and to use as a studio.

He was told it would fall off the cliff within three months but it has lasted three years and three weeks, although he has lost another seven feet of his garden in the last three days.

Mr Cunningham said he never thought the problem would turn out to be "man-made" and was surprised when they received the report of the environmental scientists and engineering geologists, Ashton Bennett.

He said the council had previously told them that it was ancient Ice Age water that had surfaced, which was causing the problem.

However, the latest report, the result of a year-long study, apportioned some blame for the subsidence on water from the McCain factory in Osgodby, less than half a mile from the estate.

It said: "The test results of the water issues and the effluent from McCain's factory within YW (Yorkshire Water) pipes indicates that leakage of effluent within YW pipes is the most likely source of the water issues."

An analysis of the effluence from the McCain factory found it contained oil and grease, along with other chemicals the report found evident in the water that had leaked into the cliff.

Mr Cunningham said: "This is not a natural disaster. This is a man-made disaster and we can prove somebody is responsible.

"Six houses have been demolished in the last three years. If the problem is not stopped then the rest of the estate will go as well.

"For me it's because of a river of fat and for me that's what's happened. These houses have just slipped off."

He said most of the 56 homes on the estate were occupied by elderly people.

He added that McCain's prided itself in being environmentally friendly and that he hoped the company and Yorkshire Water would help to stop the problem.

"At the end of the day, I have lost my house. I’ve always known that was going to happen but if I can use my situation to help others then I will be happy," Mr Cunningham said.

Part of the pipeline is operated by McCain and part by Yorkshire Water, which has recently carried out work residents say have helped the problem.

A statement from McCain's said: "Like everyone else in Scarborough, we are well aware of the longstanding geological issues at Knipe Point. 

"We employ around a thousand people in the area and throughout the four decades we have been here we have always played an active and responsible role in the community. 

"As part of this commitment we have participated constructively on a voluntary basis in past authoritative studies which have concluded that inherent and unstable geological conditions at Knipe Point are the most probable reason for the issue. 

"We have only received a copy of the new document from the Knipe Point property owners in the last few days and, as we always take community representations seriously, we have asked geological experts to assess the document’s contents before commenting further."

A statement from Yorkshire Water said it was considering the findings of the report and would respond to residents as quickly as possible.