Controversial award for Castle Mill contractors

The Save Port Meadow campaign has complained after Longcross, the contractor involved with the controversial Castle Mill development, were awarded runners-up in the 2014 Considerate Constructor Award.

The award is issued by the Considerate Constructors Scheme, a non-profit independent organisation which aims to improve the image of the building industry.

The campaigners have complained about the company’s apparent lack of transparency concerning the diesel spill of 2013 which was, according to the Save Port Meadow campaigners, never adequately explained.

The campaign asserted, “Although we did not make a complaint to the Considerate Constructor award, complaints were made about the major breach of the Ground Contamination condition direct to Longcross, to Oxford University, Oxford City Council, to our local County Councillor, to Nicola Blackwood MP, to The Environment Agency (whose complaint to the Council about the Ground Contamination condition first alerted us to the issue) and to the Police, either formally by Save Port Meadow campaign or by members of the public independently who made us aware ex post facto.”

The complaints from Save Port Meadow are not directed against the Considerate Constructors Scheme itself, as the organisers of the award have shown that their criteria have been met by Longcross.

However, the Save Port Meadow campaigners continue to assert that their concerns were never addressed, and that by awarding any prize to Longcross the Considerate Constructors Scheme is discredited. According to the Considerate Constructors Scheme, “The Considerate Constructors Scheme’s National Site Awards are given to sites who have achieved the highest scores following visits to the sites by one of our experienced Monitors.

“They visit each registered site twice during a 12-18 month registration period and look to assess the site’s performance against our Code of Considerate Practice based on what they see and hear at the time of the visit, and on their discussions with the site manager.

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“We are unable to assess sites on a continuous basis due to cost and logistical constraints and these visits therefore inevitably provide a snapshot of how that site is performing. Our Monitors attempt to take into account the context of each site and any constraints or issues they have to deal with based on that particular project.”

The Scheme’s Public Liason Offi cer David Crook commented, “The Monitor who visited this site was aware of the strength of public feeling against this project and the many challenges this created for the contractor. A number of exceptional initiatives were introduced and a very high standard of performance was witnessed by the Scheme’s Monitors at both visits carried out.

“We therefore feel that the award presented to this site is also appropriate and refl ects the hard work and eff orts made by the site team in what was clearly a diffi cult situation.”

However, Save Port Meadow have continued to oppose the decision, telling Cherwell, “We are stunned that this award has been given to Longcross for the Castle Mill development because serious contamination risks to students and their families are ongoing following the diesel spillage for which we understand Longcross was responsible. Longcross did not report the spillage for 3 months potentially putting public health and the environment at risk.”

The Considerate Constructors Scheme and Longcross were unavailable for comment when approached. Oxford University have declined to comment.