Crunch meeting for North Devon's 'Napoli'

A RUSTING boat which has been at Fremington Quay for more than two years could finally be on its way if councillors today (Wednesday) vote to pay for its removal. The Severn Sands dredger has been described as a ticking environmental time bomb and an e

A RUSTING boat which has been at Fremington Quay for more than two years could finally be on its way if councillors today (Wednesday) vote to pay for its removal.

The Severn Sands dredger has been described as a "ticking environmental time bomb" and an "ecological disaster waiting to happen" after it was revealed it contained piles of old tyres, oil, drums of unknown chemicals and even asbestos.

Today at a special meeting of the executive of North Devon Council, members will be asked to approve a �10,000 contribution towards the cost, at the request of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, of unloading its hazardous cargo, making it safe or taking it away.

Various bodies including the council and Environment Agency have been in discussions on the best way to go about it, with decontamination and removal the cheapest option, at an estimated �56,000.


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Local ward district and county Councillor Rodney Cann, who is a member of the executive, told the Gazette its dubious cargo - much apparently dumped on the boat after it became beached - included some 4,000 litres of diesel and oils, around 1,000 tyres and some 30 drums containing unknown liquids.

"If action isn't taken it will be an environmental time bomb," he said.

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"Already there are holes in the boat itself, so I'm delighted the various bodies have got together to remove it and I'm confident the district council will agree to make a contribution to that.

"There's also major concern for the safety of local youngsters. It's an irresistible attraction to climb on board and have a look, but there are all sorts of hazards on there."

The controversial boat arrived in March 2007 and a year later broke its moorings and ended up beached on the strand nearby. A report to the executive by council officer Diana Hill said it was unclear who now owned it.

Cllr Dick Jones has been among those representing the council in discussions with the MCA and Environment Agency.

"It's a small ecological disaster waiting to happen, due to the contents left there over the past two years by various people," he said.

"The sooner it's disposed of as safely as possible, the better for all of us. If the tyres were to catch fire it would cause noxious gases which with prevailing winds would drift over Barnstaple.

"Once we have the authority to make a financial contribution the other agencies involved have indicated they will follow our lead and the finances will be provided."

The council understands legal action is being considered by the MCA and EA, but there are fears that to delay would mean more risk of pollution or injury occurring.

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