TOXIC land developers sparked fury by removing demolition debris from the contaminated former Ravenscraig Hospital site just ahead of the coronavirus lockdown.

Link Group Ltd ordered lorryloads of waste to be taken away amid windy conditions despite having a stated remediation policy to keep spoil on site as 'general fill' material.

Angry residents who live in the shadow of the sprawling 83-acre site say particles of dust were 'flying around like snow' as the last-minute lockdown-beating removal operation took place.

Campaigner Alan Cumming - who is opposed to Link's plans to build 196 social homes on the polluted land - said: "All sites were closing down but they decided to start moving contaminants about with a rampant virus in the air."

Another resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Telegraph: "The stuff was being removed on open lorries.

"Particles of dust were flying around in the air just like snow.

"I followed one of the uncovered lorries from the site.

"It travelled through Greenock and Port Glasgow."

As part of the wider Telegraph investigation into Ravenscraig, Link stated last November: "The material could readily be disposed off-site to a landfill facility but the most sustainable development option is to re-use the material on site and break the pollutant linkages in-situ to the end users of the site which is what is outlined within the remediation strategy."

Asked about the apparent policy u-turn and removal operation, a Link spokesman said: "The materials are surplus to requirement as we have no need for this type of general fill material."

The private company - a registered social landlord affiliated with Greenock's Larkfield Housing Association - bought the land for £1 in a deal involving the Scottish Government and stands to receive £15.3m in public money for developing it.

A criminal investigation into allegations surrounding land issues at the toxic Ravenscraig site - revealed by the Telegraph last month - remains ongoing.

Link has now shut the site indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The firm insisted that the waste removal operation was conducted safely.

Its spokesman said: "Following government guidance to close construction sites, the materials, which were generated during demolition, were being moved in an orderly manner to adhere to this.

"All measures were taken to ensure security and the safety of the public.

"Any asbestos was fully removed during the demolition contract, which took place between late 2018 and early 2019."

Pressed as to why the materials had to be removed at all if the site was being closed anyway, the spokesman said: "We took decisive action to close our sites in line with Scottish Government guidance.

"The transportation was already booked therefore we took the decision to complete this element of work and then close this site.

"All work was carried out in line with current Health & Safety Executive guidance on safe distancing.

"Any operations witnessed would have been readying the site for closure, and our contractor has confirmed the materials being moved were demolition materials and not soil from the site.

"With the government imposed close down now in place, Link is unable to advise at this point when works will recommence."