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Nature reserve to be handed back to council after historic oil pollution is found

PUBLISHED: 17:05 23 July 2018 | UPDATED: 17:06 23 July 2018

Historic oil pollution has been found at Gunton Warren. Picture: Archant library.

Historic oil pollution has been found at Gunton Warren. Picture: Archant library.

A nature reserve will be handed back to the district council after concerns were raised about historic oil pollution on the site.

A piece of the contaminant found at Gunton Warren. Picture: Amy Smith.A piece of the contaminant found at Gunton Warren. Picture: Amy Smith.

Gunton Warren was transferred to Lowestoft Town Council following its creation in May last year as part of a series of property assets to be handed over by Waveney District Council.

However only one part of the site was transferred, with the second part incorrectly omitted from the process.

And following the discovery of significant oil pollution on the warren in April this year, Lowestoft Town Council refused to take over the second parcel of land and requested to hand the rest of the site back.

Historic oil pollution has been found at Gunton Warren. Picture: Archant library.Historic oil pollution has been found at Gunton Warren. Picture: Archant library.

The oil pollution is believed to be linked to the wrecking of the Eleni V in 1978, which resulted in considerable pollution on many local beaches including Gunton Warren.

As part of the clean up process, some oil was placed in pits to the rear of the beach and covered in sand. And due to wind, wave and storm action earlier this year, a layer of the oil has now become exposed.

Shona Bendix, Lowestoft Town Council clerk, said: “We were unilaterally handed that land when the council was created so it was never our decision to take it on in the first place.

“We were not aware that there were pits of oil buried in that land and so that was undisclosed information.

“Also the scale of the problem, if it turns out to be a problem, is not one that could be resolved by a town council with our resources so clearly it is something that should stay with the district council.”

The issue was discussed by Waveney’s cabinet last week, who unanimously approved to take back the site.

A report presented to councillors said: “It is not felt at this stage that the oil residue presents a major risk in environment, financial or economic terms. The intention is to monitor exposure of the oil layer and any resultant impacts.”

The decision was also reached to ensure that Suffolk Wildlife Trust, which manages Gunton Warren, has one landlord.

David Ritchie, cabinet member for planning and coastal management, said: “We were very pleased to get Suffolk Wildlife Trust involved and I think we have responsibilities and possibly future opportunities on that land.

“I’m very pleased to have it back and we have a responsibility to the coast whoever owns it.”

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