Row over asbestos dumped in ancient woodland

A businessman has defended the “illegal dumping” of asbestos on ancient woodland, saying he has followed “expert advice from day one”, reports the Salisbury Journal.

Carl Chambers, managing director of In-Excess based in Netherhampton Road, Salisbury, bought an old farm in West Grimstead in 2015.

When the site was developed into a distribution centre, spoil was put into a new embankment which the Environment Agency (EA) has confirmed contains a “very low” concentration of asbestos.

In a letter to a local campaigner, EA crime officer Nigel Oliver said there was a “relatively low risk” to health and it was looking at the “best options” to deal with the asbestos.

He states the material can remain if it is managed “adequately”, adding there may be a “higher level of risk” if the asbestos is removed.

But Peter Claydon from the South Wiltshire Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) called for prosecution, saying it was an “illegal dumping” of concrete asbestos. He said:

“This is a total failure of the EA to do their statutory duty of bringing action against somebody who has damaged ancient woodland.

I don’t see how the EA has any basis for not prosecuting, they seem to be confusing the illegal action of putting asbestos in the bund with what they’re now going to do with it.

Any sensitive waste has to be taken away by a licensed operator, the fact this is probably low risk asbestos is irrelevant, the law doesn’t define whether it’s low or high risk.

I’m staggered the EA doesn’t see this as a high profile situation in which they would wish to be seen to be doing the right thing.”

Ward Councillor Richard Britton accused the EA of “passing responsibility” for the issue to Wiltshire Council by saying it would take no further action if Mr Chambers secured planning consent for the bund. He said:

“The EA seems to have sloped their shoulders and found a way of shrugging off what would be an unpalatable decision to order removal of the bund. I’m disappointed the EA didn’t flex its muscles, it’s the enforcement agency, not that of a local planning authority. We can only comment on the planning aspects of an application.”

Mr Chambers said throughout the development he had been “guided by three different experts” and that there was no more asbestos in the bund than on “any brownfield site”. He said:

“As soon as we were told there could be some contamination we had it tested over a year ago and that’s what led to all these consultants becoming involved.

The bund is on the edge of a commercial premises, we have been told by experts it’s fine, the EA has tested it themselves and says it’s fine.

It is one person’s view against another person’s view – we will work with all the people involved but it takes time, we are prepared to do anything we are advised to.”

An EA spokesman said:

“We are in continued contact with the landowner with a view to finding a suitable outcome with regard to material deposited at the location. At this time all options remain open to us.”