Nature a Better Bet than Houses for Burry Port
Should houses be constructed on land contaminated with chemicals? Especially when that land is by the sea and in Carmarthenshire’s Millennium Coastal Park?
The land was the site of Grillo’s zinc oxide works at Burry Port, on the eastern side of the harbour. The directors of Grillo Zincoxide UK Ltd voluntarily wound up the company in 2008, when its net worth was £1.181 million. Grillo was not bankrupt and so, one may argue, could have been required to decontaminate the land.
But the land and the covering concrete are not clean. Even so, Carmarthenshire County Council wanted to grant planning permission to Castletown Estates for 230 homes, but the Welsh Government called in the application just before it was due to be decided by the county’s planning committee in April.
The B4311 ‘bypass’ road, on which lie a series of optimistically placed roundabouts, and the Llanelli to Carmarthen-and-points-west railway, both separate the town from the harbour. The open expanses between town and seashore give Burry Port a spacious zone for walking, running, cycling and other leisure pursuits, an area for art works, for strolling and admiring the boats and the scenery.
The ‘natural shore’ look is especially appealing now because it is nostalgic, a reminder of pre-industrial Britain. Would it not be better – and safer – to remove the concrete from the Grillo site, and let plants and trees take over? The Forestry Commission has published ‘The Opportunities for Woodland on Contaminated Land’ (by Tony Hutchings, 2002) which points out that “Woodland provides a ‘soft’ end-use that requires less stringent remediation objectives than, for example, the building of residential properties…. Trees are effective at stabilising contaminated land by reducing soil erosion and off-site particulate migration. They can also promote the microbial breakdown of many organic contaminants and help to remove the fraction of metalliferous pollutants that is available to plants, thereby reducing the transfer of contamination and potential exposure to humans and the environment.”
And trees do not produce sewage, another important consideration in this location.