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Corporate Watch : Newsletter 27 : 3 - A HOT PROPERTY

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Britain's most radioactive residence up for sale

On offer for £179,950 is a four bedroom property in Reading. This price is less than half what similar properties on the same road are selling for. Why? Number 337 Wokingham Road, Earley is contaminated with levels of plutonium hundreds of times background levels. Yet estate agents, Mann & Co, and the Bradford & Bingley, who repossessed the house from former owner Ray Fox, are providing no warnings about the house.

Due to critical illness caused by the pollution on his property Mr Fox was unable to work and became bankrupt. Unable to make mortgage payments, his former home has now been repossessed.

The story of the house and its owner, Raymond Fox, has been covered by Corporate Watch (see previous CW newsletters), Radio 4, and several national newspapers, but in spite of this the government, the European Commission and other authorities, seem deeply reluctant to conduct anything but the most perfunctory investigation. They do not dispute the presence of the contamination, which they controversially claim is at 'safe levels', but they refuse to ask the obvious question: how did plutonium and highly enriched uranium get into a house and garden in suburban Reading? Isotopic analysis demonstrates it did not come from weapons testing in the 1950s, as has been claimed.

Corporate Watch called Bradford & Bingley to ask why this potentially lethal property is being put on the market without a health warning. In a written statement B&B replied that, following Mr Fox's allegations of radioactive contamination, they had commissioned 'a thorough independent survey of the property'. This survey concluded that there was 'no nuclear contamination present'. In addition, they claim that Mr Fox has never shown them his reports detailing the radiological contamination of the house, in spite of their repeated requests for them.

'That's bollocks!' according to Ray Fox, who says he sent the reports to B&B several times. He has certainly submitted them to numerous court hearings in recent years, whilst fighting repossession of his home - court hearings at which B&B's lawyers were present. These reports form the basis of his argument against repossession and B&B's lawyers cannot have failed to see them.

B&B initially ignored our request to see their survey report. When pressed, they said that we could not see it because (we quote) 'its ours' and 'its private', although they did offer to send an excerpt from the conclusions of the report. Mr Fox doubts that the report even exists; they will not show it to him either.

B&B also seemed unsure whether it wants Corporate Watch to forward them copies of the previous reports showing radioactive contamination at the property. We have not yet heard back from them about it. At time of going to press, neither have we received any details about B&B's survey: who conducted it, and when, or even the promised excerpt from the conclusion.

As with so many companies and governmental bodies involved in this case, Bradford and Bingley appears to be in a state of denial. It couldn't happen here, could it?