North Devon Council has given more assurances about the safety of land at the former Fremington army camp.At an often heated public meeting held in the village last night (Wednesday), council environmental officers confirmed that asbestos above recommended levels had been discovered at the Military Road site. But many at the packed church hall meeting refused to accept the councils view that the contamination at the 277-home Bovis and Barratt Homes housing development posed no risk to the public. Instead there were claims of a cover up and demands for a public inquiry. Many said they left the meeting feeling many questions had gone unanswered. One audience member, Chris Hassall, said: We need a public inquiry to account for the district council, contractors, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Environment Agency (EA) and everyone involved in the whole affair. Local resident Helen Elder said: They didnt have answers to some of the questions and seem to take what they have been told [by the developer] as gospel. Ive not been reassured and I dont think anyone else has. Neighbour Michael Hibbert said he didnt think the site had been properly investigated by the council. They seem to be relying on second hand information; the council should have been there when the samples were taken and tested a portion of that sample themselves. But Andy Cole, the councils service lead for environmental protection, repeated assurances made last month and defended the credibility and robustness of data submitted on behalf of the developers. He said that prior to building work starting, an extensive range of samples had been taken and tested for a wide range of parameters including asbestos. We found no contamination on the site at a level that would pose a risk to public health, he said. We know that there were buildings made of asbestos on the site and when they were demolished the HSE and EA were both were satisfied with the way activities have been undertaken to date. There has been on-going remediation of the site and the approach has been heavily scrutinised by the council and we deem it to be acceptable. We now wait for the verification report at the end of the project to find out if the site has been cleaned up as intended. But Mr Cole said that a stockpile of soil at the site had been fenced off after a sample taken last month confirmed the presence of asbestos at a level of 0.0016 per cent. It is not covered over but it has a fence around it and is being closely monitored on a daily basis by the site manager, he said. The developers have commissioned a consultant to look at all the different stockpiles on site and take samples to make sure the material is managed appropriately. Mr Cole also said that alongside the minerals management plan, the construction environment management plan for the site would be amended to include a statement concerning the covering of lorries carrying material to and from the site. And bowing to mounting pressure for more information about contamination levels at the site, council officers agreed to carry out a programme of unannounced site inspections and make the reports of each visit available to the public. Jeremy Mann, the councils head of environment and housing, said: We have invested significant time investigating complaints and are committed to continuing this. We will also be carrying out a programme of unannounced visits to the site to ensure compliance. We will report what we find good and bad after each visit. Mr Mann added: We adopt a precautionary approach and we believe it to be adequate and compliant. We are duty bound to act if we see something wrong that presents a public health risk. Councillor Rodney Cann, who chaired the meeting, said: We take the concerns very seriously and that is why we have held a full and frank presentation to say what has happened. We knew it was going to be a difficult meeting and we are doing our very best to sort it out. I have no doubt about the credibility of our officers and if members of the public have any further allegations, please bring them forward. In a joint statement Barratt Homes and Bovis Homes said: The health and safety of our customers, the public and our contractors remains, and will continue to be, an absolute priority as we deliver these much-needed new homes, and throughout our involvement in the development at Fremington we have been going above and beyond what is required in the normal remediation of a site such as this. We hope Wednesdays meeting will have reassured the public that this is the case, as we have been working closely with North Devon Council and the Health and Safety Executive to ensure that a robust approach is taken and they have supported our rigorous screening programme. This type of work is carried out at sites across the country every day and our screening programme is managed by specialists in line with a specific, agreed remediation method statement, which includes isolating and quarantining any traces of material found.