Quarry 'still unsafe'

The National Trust was under fire last night for continuing to allow tourists to visit a North-East beauty spot - two years after a whistleblower revealed it was contaminated with deadly poisons.

Peter Collins

The National Trust was under fire last night for continuing to allow tourists to visit a North-East beauty spot - two years after a whistleblower revealed it was contaminated with deadly poisons.

Former National Trust warden Peter Collins, 48, lost his home and £21,645-a-year job because he spoke out about the presence of toxins, including asbestos and cyanide, at Trow Quarry, South Shields - visited by 27,000 people a year.

He took his former bosses to an employment tribunal and won a case for unfair dismissal.

But 10 months later, no action has been taken to remove the substances.

Mr Collins says the Trust, and South Tyneside Council who are responsible for the site's long-term management, have done nothing to ensure visitors' safety.

Last night, the National Trust said the quarry was "absolutely safe" - claiming that the chemicals are at least a metre underground.

South Tyneside Council commissioned a new report which states the site is safe and there was more danger to visitors from dog dirt.

But Mr Collins, who now lives at Charlcote Crescent, East Boldon, criticised the report.

He said: "I had an expert examine the site and he was convinced of the dangers. How can they say all the chemicals are underground when there is clear erosion which is exposing them?

"They clearly know something is wrong at the site, but have done nothing about it.

"They say they have put up signs warning people not to play in the soil, but people just don't pay attention to them."

South Tyneside Council has commissioned another report about the problems of the chemicals being exposed by erosion, which will go before a meeting next month.

Leader of the borough's opposition Liberal Democrats, Joe Abbott, who was on the committee looking at the issue, echoed Mr Collins's concerns, saying he was unconvinced about the findings that the site was totally safe.

But Jo Beddows, of the National Trust said she wanted to reassure people that Trow Quarry was a safe place to visit.

She added: "When the risk assessment was done, it was fine for people to use the site. The chemicals are at least one metre below the surface."

Page 2: I have no regrets

I have no regrets

Peter Collins lost a job he loved, his National Trust home and a large amount of money as a result of his sacking for exposing the report.

The 48-year-old now works as a self-employed gardener, but says he has no regrets about what he did.

He saw a report by the council warning the National Trust of the dangers of dog walkers and children being exposed to the chemicals, but the Trust decided not to make the document public.

It told its own staff they did not have to visit the site if they did not feel safe there.

Mr Collins, a father-of one, had seen the report and decided to defy his bosses and make its contents public.

Mr Collins, who was given an undisclosed out-of-court settlement by the Trust six months ago, was warned not to speak out about the case again, but says it is his duty to warn people of the dangers.

Last night he also revealed that, as a number of people gave him money to allow him to fight his case, he has decided to hand over £1,000 to St Clare's Hospice, in Jarrow, to say thank you.

He added: "I am still very worried that people are still visiting the site.

"I lost my home and financially I am worse off as a result of being sacked, but I don't regret it at all."

"I shouldn't really be speaking, but this is a point of principle.

"I will not be gagged about the chemicals at Trow Quarry."

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