A MAJOR social housing development is costing £1.4million more than expected as officials admit they wrongly blamed toxins.

Construction on the ex-St Andrew’s High site in Clydebank is well under way but councillors heard last week how the final tender cost for the project has jumped significantly.

The entire project for 126 new homes was anticipated to cost £20.7m but is now set to be £22.1m, an overspend of £1,417,017.

Senior council officials told the housing and communities committee last week they “didn’t anticipate” how bad the land would be.

But when the Post tried to clarify what the toxins were and how they were cleaned up at the North Douglas Street site, West Dunbartonshire Council instead blamed the cost on “piling and foundations”.

They insisted that the claims about additional contamination by one of their top officials were incorrect. Concentrations of arsenic, naphthalene and asbestos had been “cleared” from the site.

During the meeting, Peter Barry, strategic lead for housing and employability, told councillors: “What St Andrew’s shows us is even our worst case scenario planning for the condition of the ground didn’t anticipate quite how contaminated the land is.

“It is that legacy of heavy industry. And only when you actually do the specific work on the site, did we actually bottom it out. It may be something we have to be mindful as we go forward.

“St Andrew’s tells the story of West Dunbartonshire doesn’t it.”

Councillor Marie McNair said the cost rise was “quite concerning”, despite how positive it was to see the first homes already up.

She said: “It’s quite concerning that it was previously a school.”

Mr Barry replied: “That’s something, yes.”

At the time of the development being approved last year by councillors, there was no published contamination report finished.

Mr Barry also said the issue of contamination continues to hit council projects, and not just in West Dunbartonshire.

Read more: Plans could see 126 affordable properties built on former St Andrew's High School site

He accepted there was an issue with no specific funds at the UK or Scottish levels for cleaning up these sites.

Mr Barry said: “Across all housebuilding in the west of Scotland, these issues come up time and time again and we’re spending huge amounts of public money remediating land at a cost so it’s liveable.

“There is a fundamental question about who pays that price. There isn’t a scheme at the moment that manoeuvre through that. But it’s a really valuable question as we continue with these ambitions.”

A spokeswoman for the council told the Post: “The St Andrew’s site had no additional contamination over what is typically found at a Brownfield site and any claims otherwise are incorrect.

“While the ground investigation did discover contaminants consistent with this type of site, these areas were excavated and removed under strict safety criteria and regulations, and work on the land is now progressing well.”