Barnstaple couple say they will not pay their taxes until district council fixes ‘contaminated’ gasworks site.
A BARNSTAPLE couple say they are prepared to face court and even jail after withholding their council tax payments.
Julia Daunt and partner Paul Fiddian say they feel ‘completely let down’ by North Devon Council following its handling of a planning application for the clean up of the old Barbican Close gasworks.
They claim their house is now sitting on ground contaminated by lead, cyanide and other hazardous substances, following the decommissioning of the former industrial site prior to development.
At the time Julia, Paul and around a dozen residents said they had been made ill by the work, with headaches, dizziness and other symptoms.
The couple are refusing to pay any more council tax, alleging the council made a mess of the planning process and did not carry out adequate monitoring of the work, carried out by contractors on behalf of owner National Grid.
“I am prepared to go to court over this and I would quite happily go to prison,” Julia told the Gazette, shortly after receiving a final demand from the council and a warning of court proceedings.
“I don’t care about the repercussions because they have had since I first told them about the contamination to deal with it, but they haven’t done so.
“We had independent tests done before they did the work, when the results came back normal and twice afterwards, when they came back abnormal.”
The surveys were carried out by Red Rock Geoscience Ltd, geotechnical and geo-environmental consultants.
A report by the company showed up to twice the recommended human health guideline amount of lead in all soil samples, among other elevated levels of some metals and chemicals. The couple say the groundwater is also contaminated, although the most recent testing followed heavy rain and did not show high levels.
The risk rating associated with these pollutants ranged from low to moderate, but worryingly, Red Rock suggested concentrations of lead in the top soil could potentially pose a risk to young children through ingestion of soils and home-grown vegetables.
The couple have been advised not to eat anything grown from the soil in their garden.
“Although National Grid did the work, I think the buck stops with North Devon Council,” added Julia.
“We want them to pay for or to clean up our garden and remedy the problem. Who is going to pay for our garden to be cleaned-up? Who is going to want to buy our house? Our home has been ruined.
“They have a duty of care and we are not paying council tax to a council that won’t do its job properly.”
She said they had paid the first two council tax instalments to ensure they contributed towards the police and fire service.
A North Devon Council spokesperson said: “We can’t discuss individual cases. However, as with other cases of non-payment of council tax, normal recovery procedures will be followed.”