A LOCAL councillor has scolded the latest land deal at Bowling between West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) and ExxonMobil as he insists the oil giants played the council “like a fiddle”.

A deal was struck back in June to transfer ownership of the 150-acre site which runs from Bowling Harbour to Milton for free, on top of a £1million payment from ExxonMobil to the council. 

The site is now set to be transformed, with a major industrial and commercial development worth £34 million as well as a new 1.95km road to be built on the land.

Councillor James Bollan of the Leven Ward has criticised the deal, claiming the public will have to front the cleanup costs.

He told the Reporter: “Esso, one of the largest and most profitable oil companies in the world, will be laughing all the way to the bank after WDC have agreed to take off their hands a 150-acre heavily polluted site at Bowling. 

“Esso played the council like a fiddle and insisted a ‘confidentiality agreement’ was signed to keep all the key info secret, or the deal was off. 

“WDC fully capitulated and the secret arrangement was signed. The so called “remediation” plan which was due in 2019 has still not been seen. 

“Remediation is a lot less costly than full decontamination, which removes the toxic chemicals, and means the toxic materials remain onsite. 

“The land transfer absolves Esso of any claim against them arising from the land, for perpetuity. WDC bear all these risks arising from the contaminated land.

“I support the relief road in principle, only if all the land was fully decontaminated and paid for by Esso, before any land transfer. This complies with the Scottish Government’s policy of making the polluter pay for any clean-up costs.

“The public purse will subsidise this huge multinational oil company while poverty and foodbanks continue to grow across West Dunbartonshire.”

Other councillors were not so quick to condemn the deal, with Cllr David McBide of the Dumbarton Ward defending it.

Cllr McBride said: “I am pleased this complicated and exciting project has reached such an important milestone. 

“The project will see more than £20million in infrastructure investments from the Scottish and UK Government, this would not be possible without such grant funding. 

“Exxon will be responsible for the decontamination and the £1m payment will allow the council to seek insurance to protect our interests. 

“Residents will be pleased to note the area will be available for inward investment and hundreds for new much needed jobs. 

“The additional benefit of a relief road which will support and assist during regular traffic issues on the A82. Just a few weeks ago flooding brought the traffic to a standstill for a day in August. Hopefully this will mitigate such occurrences in the future."

James Hadwen, manager for the remediation project at Esso’s Bowling site, said: "The primary objective of West Dunbartonshire Council's redevelopment of the Bowling site, as set out in WDC’s Local Development Plan, is to increase the business and industry opportunities within West Dunbartonshire. 

"Esso will undertake the land remediation work on the Bowling site prior to its transfer to WDC to meet the standard required for this business and industry end use.  

“Esso’s remediation plan, which is approved both by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and by West Dunbartonshire Council’s Environmental Health Team, is consistent to meet the applicable remediation standards and we will continue to engage with the regulatory authorities as we progress the works."