Archive - Wednesday, 17 August 2005
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Toxic threat to water supply
A FULL investigation is being demanded after the Ministry of Defence admitted the former military depot at Aston Down does contain radioactive substances.
Campaigners have now raised concerns that any harmful substances on the site could contaminate the area's water supply, which runs underneath it.
The findings have come to light after Minchinhampton resident Sally Morgan, chair of the Aston Down Action Group, applied to see details of the sale of the site under the Freedom of Information Act.
In an agreement between the MoD and the purchaser of the site - Leda Properties, signed in 2002, the buyer is asked to acknowledge that '...the previous use of the property is capable of having resulted in a range of dangerous substances at the property...'
When questioned by the SNJ yesterday, Tuesday, a spokesman for the MoD revealed that parts of Aston Down were contaminated with low level radiation.
In the findings of a Land Quality Assessment the spokesman said: "It identified the presence of low level radiological materials, which are the kind of things that come from luminous dials."
"We are not talking about anything remotely serious like uranium or plutonium or anything like that - it is quite safe unless you pick the stuff up and lick it.
"But in the terms of this particular sale the buyer has to remediate the site up to the minimum lawful requirement."
The SNJ contacted Kemp and Kemp, agents for Leda Properties, but they could not confirm whether the work had been carried out and declined to comment further.
Ms Morgan, who lives about half-a-mile from Aston Down at Peaches Farm, has dedicated thousands of hours to scrutinising documents relating to the site and has been shocked by the what she has discovered.
"The most important thing is to know where the contamination is and how it should be dealt with," she said.
"I do not think it was in the public interest for such information to have been withheld.
"It has been like peeling off layers of an onion, but the more questions you ask, the more questions arise."
She is now concerned that water sources could become polluted. The Environment Agency has confirmed the area is an important source of water for local supplies which supports springs and rivers.
Stroud District Council has previously demanded Leda Properties - which is leasing out the former hangars as warehouse storage - should investigate radioactivity at the site.
A spokesman for SDC said the results of the investigation would be taken into consideration in any application for planning permission on the site.
Aston Down factfile
*Minchinhampton Aerodrome opened in 1918 as a training centre for the Australian Flying corps. *It was later identified as a potential airfield site and opened as Aston Down in 1938. *During the Second World War, it served as a training and maintenance site. *In 1984, some of the land was bought by the Cotswold Gliding Club. *During the Gulf War, Aston Down was used to decommission weapons. *In 2002, the MoD closed the site. Oxfordshire-based Leda Properties bought the main part for £4.5-million, including the hangars and the woods, and submitted 34 planning applications. These were later withdrawn after Leda was told they were likely to be refused. *In June 2005, Aston Down was identified as one of 537 potential sites in the UK for the disposal of the country's nuclear waste.