| The controversial
Ash Moor burial pit - which symbolised the Government's blunders over its
handling of the foot and mouth crisis - will finally be put to rest this
week as the first bulldozers moved in to fill in the huge holes which were
intended to hold up to 500,000 animal carcasses. Bristol-based company
Churngold Remediaton has been given the contract, by the Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to restore the pit to
More than 75,000 tonnes of materials are expected to be
extracted from the site including lime stone from three of the planned 15
barrows which were eventually dug.
The work is expected to take up
to 20 weeks to complete before being put on the market as
It is expected to fetch around £300,000 with all the
proceeds going back into Government coffers.
Local group STAMP
(Stop The Ash Moor Pit) have campaigned to see the site
Vernon Brown, of STAMP, said: "I am surprised that work
will begin this year - we had it in our minds that it wouldn't be until
"Any work being done on the site is good news but we
must now look to the future."
One resident, who did not want to be
named, said: "Why has Defra wasted all the good weather and only started
to restore the site now when we are starting to get into autumn and
winter, if they are not deliberately delaying doing the
"While it is still Government-owned property it will not be
safe. If another foot and mouth outbreak was to happen and the work
restoring the site is not finished then they are more likely to use
A Defra spokesman said: "We will basically restore the site
back to what it was before, which was part of the land owned by quarry
John Burnett, Lib-Dem MP for Torridge and West
Devon, whose constituency includes Ash Moor, said the restoration work
signalled the end of an "appallingly managed episode by the
"This was always a totally unsuitable site for mass
animal burial and it is a disgrace that so much public money has been
wasted on it.
"What Defra should do now is to donate the land to a
conservation group like the Devon Wildlife Trust for a wildlife
"The thought of what the consequences could have been if the
site was used is unbearable. The animal effluent could well have run into
the water supply and that would have been disastrous. The story could have
been very, very different."
Ian Johnson, a spokesman for the South
West National Farmers Union, said: "It was an example of blundering on a
massive scale and will not be missed by anybody."
He added that the
Government owed it to the residents and farmers to erect a lasting
memorial to the whole crisis which devastated the Westcountry.
permanent monument needs to be built at the site to remind future
generations of the suffering it caused to thousands of animals and humans
- a monument which should be unveiled by Defra Secretary Margaret Beckett
or Tony Blair."
The burial site has become a symbol of the
mismanagement of the whole crisis representing the widening gulf between
the Government and the farming communities the crisis hit.
Layland Branfield, who also became an icon of the human suffering of the
crisis, said the filling in of Ash Moor would never draw a line under foot
"No one can ever forget what happened. What I would like
to see now are systems put into place to deal with any repeat of the
"Ash Moor was a huge white elephant which should never
have happened. The most important thing now is for the Government to learn
from the mistakes it made and to move on."