Packer's Field

News: Trees & Toxic Soil - 01/01/2007

One of the first tasks the contractors performed was to remove the top soil on Packers Field. This in itself presents a safety hazard to local residents, due to the high levels of arsenic, lead and hydrocarbons that are in the soil, a relic of the mining industry that once thrived in the Whitehall/ Easton area.

Tests have shown that Packers contains arsenic levels of 35mg per kilo, well above the recommended safe level of 20mg per kg. Meanwhile lead levels on the field have been found to be 890 mg per kg - more than double the safe level of 400mg. Hydrocarbon levels on the field are 47mg per kg, which again is very high.

These toxins do not usually present a public health risk if they are capped by top soil. But on Packers, of course, the soil has been dug up since August and blown in all directions. What is worse is that the contractors have allowed a large mound of toxic top soil to be built up on one corner of the field. As late as October 2006 children were seen to be playing on this mound. Neither the contractors nor the Academy seemed to have made any attempt to stop this happening, nor to warn children away from the mound.

Local residents have complained to the council and the local media have been contacted about the toxic soil but little has been done. The field is still uncovered and particles of contaminated soil are still being blown over into the adjacent nursery and junior school, and indeed around the whole Whitehall area.

Bristol City Council submitted a planning application in September to ‘crown lift’ the three lime trees that stand on the lower part of the field (close to the King’s Head). According to the Council ‘crown lifting’ will entail the trees being pruned back by a width of 4 metres on both sides. You don’t need a degree in maths to work out that this would reduce the limes to little more than a row of stumps! It is widely suspected that this is merely another example of the Council’s strategy of ‘planning by stealth’, and that in time another application will be submitted to cut the trees down completely.

Local residents were not encouraged when it was found that in an email dated 18th September the Council’s trees officer Laurence Wood gave permission to the contractor for the work to go ahead in November, despite the fact that the period for objections to the application still had another five weeks to run! At the time of writing (Jan 2007) all three trees still stand untouched and no pruning, ‘crown lifting’ or otherwise, has been carried out on any of them.