Developers respond to claims of ‘tonnes’ of asbestos at former power station site

A row over asbestos has erupted with opposition to development plans for the Yelland Quay site.

On Thursday, dozens of protestors from Yelland Action Group (YAG) gathered by the site to object to the proposed scheme for 280 homes, employment land and a ‘marine energy park’.

One of the loudest claims was the existence of ‘700 tonnes’ of asbestos buried on the site from its days as a power station.

Concerns also included the impact on the landscape and wildlife, the loss of protected trees plus the effect on local traffic and services such as health or education.

The Gazette has been shown a report from 1998 by RPS Clouston Ltd, which said asbestos had been stripped out of the old power station and buried under concrete in the former pump house.

It also suggested earlier disposal had possibly dumped asbestos among the ‘eastern ash beds’ on the site and may even have been spread further by earth-moving.

The Gazette asked project agents Woodward Smith Architects if the developer Yelland Quay Ltd wished to respond to the protestors’ claims.

Architect Matt Steart said: “I can confirm the existing asbestos is buried to the east of the site and has been successfully capped by the applicants with the relevant approvals. This area is not to be developed on as part of this proposal and will be promoted as public open space.

“A Phase 2 Geotechnical investigation has been completed on the power station site and I can confirm that should any contamination be found this will be dealt with during the initial infrastructure works.”

But Jim Bell of YAG said the site was right in the middle of an environmentally sensitive area, with nature reserves either side, plus the river itself and the North Devon Biosphere immediately opposite.

“They are going to raise the ground by the best part of nine feet and put houses on top of that, so you will be able to see this for miles around the estuary,” he said.

“This is really part of the biosphere and they want to put houses on it – it’s just nonsense.”

David Jeremy spoke at the protest, calling on people to lodge their objections to the scheme with North Devon Council before the deadline expires.

“A simple start is to say no to the housing, full stop,” he said. “It’s going to be an awfully long fight.”