Asbestos has been found in soil surrounding new homes on a major North Walsham development.

Hopkins Homes has screened off its Mulberry Grove site with tall hoardings while workmen remove the contaminant out of public view and bring in fresh soil.

One would-be home buyer has cancelled their deal, partly as a result of the find, but a Hopkins Homes chief was adamant that there would be no risk to residents and claimed the find was 'minute' and 'routine'.

No-one is currently living on the Norwich Road site, which is being developed with 176 homes, but a number of people have reserved properties and some had expected to move in before the end of the year.

A spokesman said all those with reservations had been kept informed and the decontamination work was likely to take a further three to four weeks.

He said the problem had first been discovered in the past two to three weeks.

Simon Bryan, development director at Hopkins Homes, claimed that the inspections were part of a routine process with all completed houses, especially on brownfield sites as in North Walsham.

'Mulberry Grove is being built on the former HL Foods canning factory; a derelict industrial site that had blighted the gateway to North Walsham since 2002,' he added.

'It is not uncommon to find pollutants on these types of developments, and in this instance we found areas with minute traces of asbestos.

'Due to the time the canning factory was built it was expected that we might find small traces of contaminants, and ensured the appropriate measures were in place to identify and remove these before completing the development.

'Once the work has been completed, the development will be assessed and approved by the relevant local authorities and we want to reassure the community that there will be absolutely no risk to occupants of the properties.

'This is very much a routine process when developing a brownfield site.'

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