THE final stage of ground testing is to begin in October on a key area of land in a massive housing development at a former weapons factory site.
Landowner BAE Systems is preparing the way for a 2500 home development at the 2000-acre Royal Ordnance Factory at Bishopton in Renfrewshire.
The site was once used for a host of secret military purposes, and at its height last century 20,000 people worked round the clock producing weapons for Britain's armed forces.
The majority of the work went on creating propellant for shells, essentially producing the chemicals that make big guns go bang — a dangerous and potentially lethal process.
So dangerous that the ROF once had its own mortuary, and to this day the area is dotted with giant bunkers and eerie buildings surrounded by mounds of earth to deflect the blast from accidental explosion.
But the site is no longer used to make weapons and is now being prepared for a new purpose with BAE Systems replacing the bunkers with land fit for housing.
The company is keen to stress it has already spent £32million ensuring that the land is safe — a significant sum for a firm enduring the volatile global economic climate which has seen it shed hundreds of jobs across the UK.
Project director Lynda Johnstone said: "This is not a short-term project. It's a long-term commitment. We want the legacy to be a new, vibrant community, and we are confident we can do that."
She points to the fact that major housebuilding firms are now on-board as an indicator of confidence in the project, adding: "We've sold the land for the first 600 houses. All of those contracts are in place.
"Phase one took an investment of £32m. From my personal perspective, that's a real statement. That's us saying we believe in this.
"We're going to spend that and create the infrastructure, and get value for this."
That £32m has gone on extensive remedial work — essentially removing the old ground and where necessary replacing it with new soil — preparing the land for the first phase of 600 homes to be built on the northern and southern edges of the site by housebuilders Taylor Wimpey, Cala and Persimmon.
This autumn, BAE is to begin the final stage of testing on land in the centre of the development where it intends to create a new "village hub".
Stringent testing is required because of the possible presence of dangerous chemicals in the soil left over from decades of weapons manufacturing.
But the company says that whatever is found can be dealt with.
Graham Vincent, the company's environmental business manager in Scotland, said: "We have already done several phases of testing but this phase of final investigations is always done just before we formalise the final remediation strategy with Renfrewshire Council. That is a condition of the planning consent.
"Once we formalise that strategy, we start work. Anything that we do find, that we haven't found before, will be incorporated into the agreed remediation strategy. Whatever we find, we'll formulate a plan to deal with that."
Some existing residents of Bishopton, however, remain sceptical, not just of the clean-up operation, but of the whole project's viability.
The Bishopton Action Group — which has been opposed to the development from the start — has been quick to jump on any deviation from the council-approved plan.
A delay to the creation of a new link with the M8, which was revealed by the Evening Times last month, prompted an accusation that the developer was struggling to find funds.
And a spokesman for the group, which claims to have the support of half the existing village of Bishopton, said: "We are still very much disillusioned.
"They keep promising a new school, new library, new health centre, but none of these are going to arrive for some considerable time, if at all.
"There will be pressure on the existing infrastructure. Resources in the village are already stretched.
"The action group has recruited more active members recently. People are waking up to the fact that they should have done something sooner."
A public consultation event is to be held in Bishopton on August 9 on BAE's plans for the "village hub".