Failed ‘Yorkshire caviar’ scheme hit by fraud claims

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ALLEGATIONS of fraud relating to a council-backed fish farm project have been handed to police.

Mirfield councillor Martyn Bolt recently received information from several sources about the Able2 environmental project in Heckmondwike.

Kirklees Council spent £1.2m on a failed scheme to produce caviar from sturgeon, a ‘floating’ cafe and bike track.

It was launched in 2011 but this week the council dropped the plans in favour of creating a fishing lake, costing the council a further £50,000.

Councillor Bolt said the allegations included the theft of scrap metal.

He has passed the claims to the Action Fraud hotline and to West Yorkshire Police and called for a full audit into what went wrong.

The council has not commented on the fraud allegations but last week it did release a statement to explain what had been achieved by the project.

The statement said: “The Council’s Cabinet at a meeting in October 2009 allocated funding of £1.25m to the scheme and this has been used to reclaim a long derelict site compromising of former railway sidings/embankments and a landfill site to establish a lake and associated eco drainage system.

“It did not prove possible to produce a viable business model for commercial fish farming on the site as originally envisaged.

“During the construction phase the works together with various research and prototype activities took place, including the creation of a replica rail coach to reflect the historic railway connections.

“These activities created a number of job, training and apprentice opportunities for local disadvantaged young people, many of whom have since gone on to find alternative employment.

“In the light of the current funding challenges facing the Council the proposal is to use the lake as a recreational angling facility for young people from North Kirklees with the lake and the surrounding area also providing a beneficial community ‘haven’ adjacent to the Spen Valley Greenway.”