Contaminated site report buried, claims councillor

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Derwentside & Tyneside)

A COUNCIL has been accused of burying a report revealing land earmarked for a flagship school and sports development is contaminated.

Councillor Owen Temple has accused Durham County Council of suppressing a survey on the Belle Vue site in Consett where the authority wants to build a £44m academy and leisure centre.

It comes as opponents who want the land registered as a village green learned councillors who will make the decision have been urged to reject their application by a planning inspector at next Thursday’s meeting.

The report, which has identified Mercury, asbestos and carbon monoxide, was written last January, but Coun Temple, who represents Consett on the council, said he was not made aware of it until it emerged on the council’s planning application.

He alleged: “It’s not just me, but the people of Consett who have been duped.

“There was no mention of asbestos contamination at the so-called consultation event in the town, and not a peep of it at the area action partnership board meeting.

“Burying this information in a bundle of papers relating to a planning application is just another episode in a history of misinformation.”

Terry Collins, the council’s corporate director of neighbourhood services said reports have been published in line with normal procedures.

He said: “The reports into the Belle Vue site do not show up any serious contamination which would give undue cause for concern and therefore there is no reason why this should have been raised sooner.”

After a judicial review, the council's highways committee is expected to reconsider an application from Consett Green Spaces Group, which opposes the development, to have the land registered as a village green, however it is understood members have been advised to reject the proposal.

Meanwhile, former Derwentside District Council leader, Alex Watson, has written to the Audit Commission to complain about the council’s handling of the development.

He said: “The local authority is trying to steamroller the academy development onto a much-used community playing field sites when there are massive brownfield opportunities within a five-minute walk. This is causing public uproar.”

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