A North Yorkshire council is facing a possible investigation over alleged failures to ensure a development site was cleared of contamination before it became the UK’s first luxury sustainable holiday park.
Richmondshire District Council has admitted it does not know if contamination had been cleared up at Natural Retreats’ site at Aislabeck, west of Richmond, even though it had identified that action needed to be taken there 15 years ago.
A group of residents said they had complained to the Local Government Ombudsman over the council’s handling of planning applications at the site, following a meeting of its planning committee last week.
The meeting, which saw councillors grant expansion plans at the site, heard that when the council gave permission for the holiday park in 2003, it had stipulated that contamination needed to be cleared before it could be used.
The former Army rifle range and council landfill site has been found to have high concentrations of lead and concentrations of copper, nickel and zinc, and a report by consultants Amec Foster Wheeler has found “there are potential unacceptable outstanding risks to human health should the remediation and mitigation measures recommended to the council in 2003 not have been implemented”.
Asked to clarify the situation, a council spokesman said: “Whilst some site investigation work was undertaken in 2004 it is unclear precisely how extensive this investigation was, or to what extent precisely any previous mitigation measures were undertaken.”
Responding to claims that nearby land and water courses, including the River Swale, had become polluted as a result of council inaction, the council said tests of surrounding water courses found no evidence of contamination. The council also dismissed claims it had buried the consultants’ contamination report for more than a year, saying it was posted on the council’s website a month after receiving it.
REMEDIAL WORK MOOTED
The group of residents who have reported their concerns to the Local Government Ombudsman said it remained unclear whether conditions attached to the Natural Retreats’ latest expansion plan meant action needed to be taken to clear contamination across the 53-acre site or a smaller section of it.
A council spokesman said planning permission was on condition of any contamination risks found across the entire site being the subject to remedial works.
Meanwhile, the council’s failure to ensure a warden was living on site as part of the site’s original planning consent in 2003 is being investigated by its enforcement officers.