Reprinted from Newsletter 119, dated 2006 June

Bulldozers busy at old tanyards; shop is next to go

A thin artificially-straight-looking stream runs away from the camera between plants and bushes on the left, and a bright white incline on the right, which gives way to an open area of broken concrete. A blue pipe snakes along just past the top edge of the white incline. In the foreground, across the stream, is a rusted thin metal barrier. In the background is metal fencing, and behind that, two relatively small but industrial-looking stone buildings, partially obscured by trees. The one on the left is surrounded by scaffolding. The one on the right has a tall brick chimney rising from it, doubling its height.

Contractors are removing silt from the mill stream alongside Beckery Old Road to make for better flow and more life. At the same time they are crushing tons of concrete from the old tannery site to use for road work, and treating contaminated soil.

More than 500 tons of concrete a day are being broken up, lifted and crushed at the Morlands Enterprise Park, which is bustling with activity as workmen and diggers excavate 5,000 square metres.

The concrete that covered the site is being graded into huge mounds. It will be reused for constructing new surfaces and roads on the site, as well as for work on the A39 running alongside.

The Morlands shop, facing Street Road, is next on the list for demolition.

“It’s all going very well and according to programme,” said Esther Scott, Somerset development manager for the Southwest Regional Development Agency (RDA).

“As well as the excavations and preparation of the ground for new surfaces, the contractors are also busy cleaning up contaminated soil, to make it safe for re-use.” The treatment methods include bioremediation (the use of active “good” bacteria) and screening to remove the fine particles that carry contaminants.

For a millennium, animal hides were turned into leather on the site. Early tanners used slow methods with pits of vegetable tannin (hence the name); faster processes using heavy metals such as chromium were invented in the 1850s.

The contractor, Edmund Nuttall Ltd, is also de-silting and relining the Mill Stream along Beckery Old Road. The stream will be narrowed to improve the flow, increase oxygen and so encourage more life in it. It will be landscaped to become an attractive feature.

“Work to widen the A39 is expected to begin once there is sufficient crushed concrete,” said Ms Scott. “Passersby will see an embankment being built first and the contractors will do their best to maintain the smooth flow of traffic.”

Beckery Old Road is closed because of site work, but there is access to the coal yard, cottages and skatepark.

The RDA will sell approximately 15 acres on the Morlands site as serviced plots, to be used as larger or smaller sites depending on demand. Work on these will begin once the infrastructure work is complete. Marketing and discussions with potential developers are ongoing.