A LOCAL man wants to know if a site near Bedale, where hundreds of wartime chemical weapons were said to have been buried, poses any danger almost 60 years later.

Lol Daniel said this week that he had spent the past 30 years trying to find out exactly what happened at Fox Covert, an isolated spot of between six and eight acres between Well and Nosterfield.

Mr Daniel, 76, of Well, has never forgotten the advice he was given by a local police sergeant who, as a young soldier, had been stationed at one of the biggest arms dumps in the country at Camp Hill plantation, not far from Fox Covert.

The sergeant said children should never be allowed to enter Fox Covert because at the end of the war he had helped to bury thousands of tons of gas shells there.

Mr Daniel, who has lived at Well for more than 40 years, said he was given the advice after local children began taking home relics of wartime munitions, including a .303 rifle round and part of a machine gun ammunition belt, found in the area.

Fox Covert was subsequently planted with larch trees but Mr Daniel said that in one corner some trees had grown to a height of only 15ft before they died.

Mr Daniel said he had been trying to get official sources, including a local authority and the army, to investigate Fox Covert because there was a watercourse nearby and alterations had been made to the drainage arrangements in the area.

He said: "No one seems to show the slightest interest. I haven't made a song and dance about it up to now but I have decided to go to the media because I feel I am getting nowhere.

"I don't want to scare the whole population, but my biggest worry is if anything is leaking out into the watercourse. We don't know what sort of gas it was.

"All I am asking is for ground and water samples to be taken, if only to satisfy me and to reassure local people. I get the idea that I wasn't supposed to know about this."

It is understood that a local ammunition sub-depot comprised 166 acres at Camp Hill, 72 acres at Bedale and 53 acres at Clifton Castle, near Thornton Watlass. Stocks of chemical weapons were held by the sub-depot but records do not indicate the location of the site.

Hambleton District Council told Mr Daniel in May last year that it had asked the Environment Agency to investigate Fox Covert on behalf of the authority.

The council said that, under contamination legislation, if the investigation revealed that chemical weapons had been disposed of at Fox Covert and the land was designated a special site, the Environment Agency would be the regulatory body responsible for remedial measures.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: "We have been requested by Hambleton District Council to inspect this site. The inspection needs to be carried out before we can assess what action, if any, needs to be taken. Based on the information we have, we do not believe the site poses any environmental risk."

The defence estates department at Catterick Garrison was involved in checking records in response to inquiries from Hambleton on Mr Daniel's behalf but no comment was available