BABCOCK International’s plans to build a paint and blast facility on land at Rosyth contaminated by asbestos, lead and arsenic, have been approved by Fife Council. 

However, no work can start until several reports have been submitted and approved by the planning authority to ensure potential risks from previous site uses have been fully assessed. 

The site, part of an old dumping ground for everything from medical, surgical and veterinary waste to World War Two ships, is at the western side of Rosyth Dockyard. 

A report said it may even contain unexploded German bombs and it’s been labelled a “risk to human health” because of the materials that have already been found there. 

That includes levels of mercury and zinc that exceed the thresholds for a marine water environment, and elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide, arsenic, lead, nickel, cadmium, mercury, chromium 3 and 6, copper, zinc, boron, phenol and “heavy range” petroleum hydrocarbons. But the solution is to build on top of it and seal it in with concrete. 

The council report said: “The development would have no significant impact in terms of visual amenity, transportation, natural heritage and residential amenity and would not prejudice the delivery of a national priority development. Overall, the development is considered acceptable in all respects.”

Details about materials to be used and drainage will  need to be supplied before work can start, to prevent the risk of floods and to protect ‘visual amenity’. 

It’s understood the site was once part of the Forth estuary but became reclaimed land that was then developed in stages. 

From the 1940s to 1984 it operated as a landfill site with waste materials from ship breaking operations during World War Two and subsequent years dumped there. 

As well as household and “ugly” waste, sawdust, woodchips, bulky scrap materials and lagging, the tip saw medical, surgical and veterinary waste, and asbestos, left on the site. 

The report says it was “used for the disposal of a range of unspecified waste materials” from the dockyard and contains the suggestion that “unspecified chemical drums” were abandoned there.

It says there is also a risk of finding unexploded bombs, from air raids on the dockyard in wartime, but as the site was reclaimed from the Forth after World War Two it’s considered to be “low level”.

The land underwent “regulatory authority approved capping” in 1985 and was later used as a compound area for the nearby RD57 site. 

That area was to be used for the refitting of Trident nuclear submarines but in what was seen as a political move, the government decided in 1993 that the work would take place at Devonport instead. 

Babcock announced in 2010 their intention to turn the RD57 site into an £85m container terminal.