Thursday, August 24, 2006


11:00 - 24 August 2006
Traces of a deadly nerve gas have been found by specialists clearing dump sites at a former chemical weapons factory on the Westcountry coast. The secret Chemical Defence Establishment at Nancekuke, near Redruth, manufactured about 20 tons of the nerve agent Sarin between 1954 and 1956 before the Government abandoned its offensive chemical capability. Now known as RAF Portreath, the facility was decommissioned and closed in 1977.

Seven years ago the Ministry of Defence (MoD) began investigating five sites - labelled A, B, C, D and E - which were used as dumping grounds during the break-up of the plant. They are known to contain asbestos, decontaminated plant, and small quantities of chemicals.

Remediation work started in May this year and the MoD has now revealed that traces of Sarin have been found in two of the pits after laboratory analysis.

It said a few parts per million had been found of methyl phosphonic acid (MPA) and isopropyl methylphosphonic acid (IMPA) - which were no more toxic than many household insecticides.

Dr Richard Soilleux, of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), said: "A similar minute quantity of MPA was found within a glass flask during investigations at dumpsite C in 2003.

"At that time, it was explained that MPA is a relatively harmless chemical and was a breakdown product from the decontamination processes that took place on all equipment before it was buried in the dumpsites.

"On this occasion the two chemicals found were also extremely diluted, and while MPA could be a skin and eye irritant for staff working within the vapour containment system, if they were not wearing appropriate protection. It is no more toxic than many insecticides approved for home use.

"IMPA is five times less toxic than MPA and is not even an irritant."

The laboratory's analysis of samples from the first six trial pits at dumpsite B, which has been fitted with a vapour containment system, has shown these samples are clear of chemical warfare agents.

At dumpsite C, work to temporarily relocate the heather covering this site is well under way and a water management system has been installed for irrigation.

By September, Defence Estates expects to have excavated about 100 cubic metres of waste and completed studies at four other sites.

Project manager Garth Weaver said: "The assessment study involves trial pits being dug at regular intervals across the sites to allow the team to collect soil and water samples.

"This has already started at dumpsite B and will enable us to obtain the best possible data to better inform the Environment Agency and other statutory regulators about what has been buried.

"The information collected will also enable the appropriate remediation work to be undertaken in agreement with the Environment Agency, in line with the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

"It is highly unlikely that any chemical warfare agents were dumped when Nancekuke was decommissioned, but we are adopting a safety-first approach with trial pit digging work at dumpsites A, B and C. This is why people using the North Cornwall coastal path may have seen a large tent-like structure, which was erected in May over dumpsite B. All work takes place within this structure, which is the vapour containment system."

Work has also started at the former mine workings in the Kerriack Valley, with a local mining contractor carrying out works before the physical inspection of the mine later this year. It will provide information about the nature and extent of the waste in dumpsites D and E which are both mine shafts.


09:00 - 24 August 2006
Police and lifeguards warned this week that children are risking life and limb by hurling themselves into the sea from a 200ft-high cliff at Portreath. They said it was "only a matter of time" before a youngster suffered a serious injury, or was killed.

The craze of jumping into the harbour entrance, which is known as tombstoning, has been popular at the seaside resort for years.

But police warned that children were putting themselves in serious jeopardy by leaping from greater heights this summer.

Acting Sgt Tim Roberts, the neighbourhood beat manager for Portreath, said: "Officers from the Redruth neighbourhood police team have had occasion to speak to children following complaints from the public.

"Basically, the individuals have shrugged off the officers' advice and just laughed. I would appeal to parents whose children are going to Portreath to check with them what they are doing there.

"With the heights involved, common sense says it is only a matter of time before someone is injured, or worse."

On Sunday afternoon, the West Briton pictured a 15-year-old boy jumping into the harbour entrance from an 80ft-high cliff ledge. After his father gave him permission to talk to our reporter, Tom Wilkins said: "I've been doing it for a month.

"It's a feeling of fear, but when you've done it, you can't believe it."

Asked if he thought he was putting himself at risk, Tom said: "I only do it when it's safe. "The weather needs to be clear and the sea quite calm."

Coastguards said they had received a number of 999 calls this summer from eyewitnesses worried about the safety of children leaping into the sea at Portreath. "The really keen ones are jumping 200ft into the mouth of the harbour," said Mark Roberts, the coastguard station officer in the village.

"They are running the risk of death or serious injury. We're only here to preserve life and safe life. It is a dangerous pursuit and we strongly advise them not to do it, but they won't listen to you."

The 200ft stretch of cliff that has become a popular jumping spot is known locally as "pepper pot", while the 80ft drop is labelled "high cliffs".

Cllr Ken Bowden, a member of Portreath Council and a former chairman of Kerrier Council, said: "They call it tombstoning. I think it's dangerous but they only do it when there's no surf. I don't know what the answer is - you cannot patrol the cliffs all the time."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


11:00 - 19 August 2006
Utting out as it does into the Western Approaches and Atlantic swells, South West England is blessed with one of the best wave and tidal resources in the world. You only have to walk along any stretch of our 700-mile coastline to appreciate the awesome power of nature pounding the rocks below. But what if we could somehow harness that energy to power our homes and businesses - an endless supply that did not depend on burning fossil fuels and polluting the very environment on which so many of our livelihoods depend?

That was a question we were seeking to answer when we first commissioned a study called the Seapower SW Review back in 2003. It looked at the power of the waves and tides along our coast, how they might be used to generate electricity and what obstacles would need to be overcome.

It concluded that there was potential to "capture" wave energy from the Isles of Scilly to Ilfracombe in North Devon, while the Bristol Channel and parts of the south coast had strong tidal streams.

Combine this with fewer storms than Scotland and a strong electricity grid network near the coast and South West England was in pole position to harness the power of the sea.

Fast-forward three years and we have made great strides. In June, the South West RDA applied to the Government to build a revolutionary wave farm ten miles off the coast of Hayle, and on Thursday the Department of Trade and Industry announced that it would make up to £4.5 million available towards the £20 million total cost of the project, subject to the granting of relevant building consents.

The RDA is planning to match the level of Government funding, and will be making an application to European structural funds to cover the remainder of the costs. The project is now waiting for the outcome of the consents process - which is expected by the end of the year.

An economic impact study published by the South West RDA last year showed that the project could create 700 jobs and be worth £27 million a year to the economy by 2020.

Called the Wave Hub, it would resemble a large electric socket on the seabed, connected to the National Grid via an underwater cable. Wave energy devices, of which there are several emerging around the world, would be attached to the Wave Hub.

What makes this project unique is that the developers would have, for the first time, an area of sea with full planning permission, a grid connection and the opportunity to test their devices on a scale that has not been tried anywhere else in the world. Although only a demonstrator project, the Wave Hub could generate enough electricity to power 7,500 homes, which is three per cent of Cornwall's domestic electricity needs. More importantly, it would position South West England as a world leader in the development of wave energy technology, potentially creating hundreds of jobs in the future.

The Wave Hub would employ about 140 people during its development and construction, but developers would need to manufacture, deploy, operate and maintain their wave energy devices, and it is anticipated that much of this work would be carried out in Cornwall and the wider region.

We are also talking to ING, the developers of Hayle Harbour, to ensure that there would be workspace provided as part of its redevelopment plans to accommodate this activity.

As part of our planning application, we have had to carry out very detailed environmental impact studies, looking at everything from wave heights to the effects of electro-magnetic fields on sharks and dolphins.

Since those studies were published two months ago, there has been much debate about one issue in particular - the impact of the devices using the Wave Hub on the quality of surf on Cornwall's north coast.

It's true to say that wave energy devices, by their nature, absorb power from the waves and convert it into electricity. But what many people have seized upon is the worst case scenario from our studies, rather than what we believe will actually happen.

What our studies have shown is that in the most likely case, the height of waves coming ashore along a narrow stretch of coast between Portreath and Penhale could be five per cent lower as a result of the Wave Hub. This is less than two inches in a 3ft wave.

We also looked at a worst case scenario because we have to demonstrate to the Government that we have considered a wide range of options. This assumed that a certain type of wave device was connected to the Wave Hub. In this case, the impact could be a maximum 11 per cent reduction in wave height but there are in fact no plans for that particular device to be installed.

In promoting the Wave Hub project, we have consulted both the Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) and the British Surfing Association (BSA) for more than a year.

SAS has been unequivocal in its support and has published a policy statement saying that it does not believe surfers will notice a five per cent reduction in wave height and that even the worst case scenario "should not result in a substantial reduction in surf quality".

The BSA has also signalled its support in principle but does continue to have some concern about the impact on wave height and we will continue to work with the surfing community to address these issues.

The Wave Hub is a demonstrator project that still needs planning permission and further funding before it becomes a reality.

If, as we hope, it becomes operational in the spring or summer of 2008, we will need to monitor closely how it performs before any future wave farms are even considered. And none of those would happen without consulting with all interested parties.

The Government's recent Energy Review called for a five-fold increase in the amount of electricity generated from renewable resources because of the pressing need to tackle global warming and climate change.

We believe that the Wave Hub would play a vital role towards achieving that goal.


11:00 - 23 August 2006
Hundreds of members of the Armed Forces will be taking part in a massive helicopter exercise over Cornwall and Devon next month. The airborne phases of the exercise, codenamed Grey Cormorant, will form part of a wider amphibious deployment. The training has been designed to ensure members of all three Armed Forces are ready for any action around the world.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "This training will help military personnel of all ranks to improve their skills in ship-to-ship and ship-to-land movements. We have to make sure they are ready for every eventuality before they are deployed anywhere around the world."

The exercise is due to run from Monday, September 4 until Friday, September 22. Aircraft involved will include Chinooks, Sea Kings, Merlins and Lynx.

Most of the flying will take place over the sea but there will also be some activity inland. Areas where activities are likely include Culdrose, Portreath and Predannack in Cornwall and in Devon at Barnstaple, Chivenor, Fremington Burrows and Braunton Burrows.

The whole exercise will be monitored by representatives from the MoD.

Friday, August 11, 2006


11:00 - 10 August 2006
Some of the region's leading projects were yesterday dusting themselves down after experiencing the disappointment of failing to reach the shortlist for a possible £50 million Lottery grant. Hundreds had submitted plans for a share of the Living Landmarks coffers but only three projects have made it through to the next stage of the competition: The Eden Project, Somerset's Waterlinks and Kerrier in Cornwall.

Those left disappointed far outweigh the success stories. In Plymouth, the campaign to create an Olympic-standard sports facility, despite being rejected by Living Landmarks, continues.

Cornwall fishing ports have been set back, too, after a harbours regeneration plan was thrown out. And in East Devon and Dorset, there was a major setback after the World Heritage site, the Jurassic Coast, was unexpectedly turned down.

The plans were to create a series of visitor centres along the coast. In Exmouth, there were hopes for a high-tech interpretation centre featuring displays on the Jurassic Coast and the Exe Estuary wildlife. In Seaton, there would have been a centre looking at the local geology, wildlife and landscapes.

East Devon District Council's corporate director for the environment, Karime Hassan, said: "We now need to take stock and consider how we go forward in progressing these two centres, to celebrate East Devon's Jurassic Coast and help regenerate important coastal towns such as Seaton and Exmouth."

At Lyme Regis, West Dorset, a cultural quarter project would have addressed the natural and cultural heritage of the area. Those behind the project, collectively known as Evolution, have vowed to continue in their bid to bring it to fruition.

Dorset County Council's cabinet member for the environment, Hilary Cox, said: "This is not the end of the road for Evolution and all projects will continue to develop and look for alternative sources of funding."

Elsewhere in Cornwall, there have been mixed emotions to the Living Landmarks announcement. While the Eden Project and a scheme to create a park and visitors' centre in Pool have made it to the next round, The Harbours Project was omitted. The five harbours were Newlyn, Falmouth, Looe, Newquay and Portreath.

The plans included in the Cornish Harbours bid were: a new multi-use fish market building at Newlyn; the refurbishment of an Edwardian pier and the provision of a new marine college at Falmouth; a new promenade for the seafront at East Looe; an events area and seafront pathway at Newquay, and the development of a community marina at Portreath.

Newquay Fishermen's Association chairman Bill Trebilcock said: "The harbours that were included in the bid all need investment. People come to Cornwall to see quaint little harbours. If they are left to continue crumbling as they currently are then people won't want to come back."

The Heartlands Project aims to create world-class facilities involving leisure, health and community uses in Pool but the minds behind the scheme were left disappointed when they too failed to make it through to stage two.

The hope is to create a replacement for Carn Brea Leisure Centre with new health facilities, spa and active adventure centre on publicly-owned land next to the Tesco Extra at Dudnance Lane, Pool.

Spyrys was not the only leisure facility project to be left disappointed. In Plymouth yesterday, council bosses vowed to continue their fight to create the £54 million Life Centre.

Having received the backing of thousands of city residents and Sports England, the council has said it will continue to press ahead with the plans to create the leisure complex in Central Park.

Managers were yesterday looking at alternative funding for the scheme which would include a 50-metre swimming pool, as well as top quality facilities for health, music and drama.

Mark Cotton, Big Lottery Fund head of region for the South West, said: "We made it clear to applicants only a handful of projects would eventually be awarded a grant. Each long-listed application was considered in great detail."

Friday, August 04, 2006

Portreath Arts Club

Show by its 28 members who work in various media including watercolour, acrylic, pastel and oils. Founder member Beth Berriman, aged 86, is a renowned watercolour artist.

The club's annual show is at the institute, from 10am to 7pm daily from Monday, August 7 to Saturday 12.

Members are of various ages and abilities and experience varies widely. Entry to the show is free and all visitors are welcome.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


One of the biggest mountain bike and dirt cross centres was offically opened recently.

For the first time, Cornwall has its own nationally recognised permanent five acre site for slalom, dirt and mountain bike riding at the track at Portreath.

Thousands of people enjoyed the opening the glorious conditions, it was a fitting climax to all the hard work put in by Steve Tonkin and his crew, and yet this is now just the beginning of a adventurous business venture for Cornwall.

The degree of professionalism by this group of young people was astounding, not only were all safety procedures in place, marshals, ambulance pa etc but the whole event ran off in a really enjoyable atmosphere.

It the only facility of its kind in the UK and after two years of hard work it is a project for one and all to believe in.

The vision is to give everyone an off road experience at an offical centre and stage national events.

The event was given further support as Bike Chain -Ricci enjoyed theit 21st birthday celebrations. They managed to get Cannondale,Trek,Norco, Marin, Cove, Maverick and Kona to attend with their huge demo truks hundreds of people enjoyed their free test rides further increasing the popularity of the track.

The presence of these leading manufacturers meant the cycle industry is fully aware of the quality of this Cornish facility.It will feature in several new events and top mountain bike magazines.


11:00 - 01 August 2006
The stamina and fitness of hundreds of young lifesavers was put to the test in challenging conditions as part of a national competition held in the Westcountry. Teams from Devon and Cornwall dominated the National Nippers Surf Life Saving Championships by garnering the top three spots.

More than 550 youngsters, aged from seven to 13, took part in the event, held at Portreath on Cornwall's north coast.

They competed in a range of challenges on the water and the beach to test their fitness and skills. These included open-water swims, beach sprints, and wading events.

The competition went ahead despite rain, strong winds, and a strong Atlantic swell, which saw huge waves crashing on to the beach.

John Martin, director of sports with the Surf Life Saving Association, which organised the event, said: "This was the best event we have ever had and we enjoyed the highest number of participants.

"We only had to cancel two events, despite the adverse conditions, which just goes to show how able and experienced these young lifesavers are."

The team from Woolacombe in North Devon finished top, while the hosts Portreath came in second overall, and Saunton Sands, also in North Devon, came third.

Last year's winners, from The Mumbles near Swansea, could only manage fourth this year.

Mr Martin said: "It was a very strong showing from Devon and Cornwall this year in tough conditions.

"I would like to thank the 80 volunteers who helped out with event safety to make sure it could all go ahead."



11:00 - 01 August 2006
Communities across the Westcountry could be invited to provide a home for a massive new radioactive waste dump under proposals put forward yesterday for dealing with the legacy of Britain's nuclear industry. In its final report on dealing with the tens of thousands of tonnes of waste generated by the civil and military nuclear programmes the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management said an underground dump remained the best option - despite the difficulty of identifying a site.

The committee, which was set up to advise the Government two and a half years ago, said action was needed immediately to begin the process of identifying potential sites for the £10 billion facility.

Past attempts to identify sites for dumping nuclear waste have provoked massive hostility from communities across the country. But the committee said evidence from countries like Finland suggested it was possible to convince communities that hosting a waste repository could bring benefits, such as jobs and investment.

It said that around a third of the UK was geologically suitable for hosting a deep repository, including large areas of the Westcountry.

Committee chairman Professor Gordon MacKerron urged ministers to appoint a new body to work with communities on bringing forward suitable sites. He said any attempt to impose a dump would be doomed to failure.

He added: "It is vital that the Government no longer tries to impose radioactive waste management facilities on communities because we have about 30 years of experience of that and we know it never works; it always runs into the sand. Instead, we are proposing there should be an approach in which communities are invited to be 'willing to participate'."

Even if willing communities are found it is likely to take at least 35 years to develop the dump needed to house Britain's huge quantities of intermediate level nuclear waste. The committee said that new above-ground storage facilities should be developed to house it in the meantime. Previous attempts to find a home for an underground waste dump have ended in failure.

Last year, it emerged that more than a dozen locations across the Westcountry had been considered as potential sites in the 1980s. Although none made the final shortlist several survived a long way through the selection process, including Chivenor in North Devon, Hinkley Point in Somerset, and St Mawgan, Tregantle, Portreath and Davidstow in Cornwall.

All these sites could be considered, although most observers believe that, if the dump is built, it is likely to be at an existing nuclear facility.

The long lead-in time means that the nuclear reactors from submarines decommissioned at Devonport are likely to be stored above ground for many years to come. Devonport is home to four defuelled submarines and another two awaiting decommissioning.

The submarines' 600-tonne reactors will eventually need to be dumped in the new waste repository, although they are likely to be cut up and stored elsewhere in the meantime. Devonport has already made it clear that it has no plans store the reactors above ground in the long term.

Greenpeace described the plan for a deep underground dump as an "environmental time bomb".