Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 13:42 UK

Celebrations as waste tip closes

By Jonathan Morris
BBC News, Plymouth

Chelson Meadow
Saltram House in the shadow of the tip

As blots on the landscape go, they do not get much more lurid than Chelson Meadows in Plymouth.

And as next door neighbour to the beautiful Grade I listed Saltram House, the tip could not be more unwanted.

But now the rotting waste and the accompanying seagulls are going because Chelson, which opened in the 1960s, closed on Monday to municipal waste.

The site will now be landscaped and Plymouth's rubbish will be taken to an old quarry near Liskeard in Cornwall.

The move was met with cheers from staff at Saltram, including assistant administrator Sue Storey who opened a box of chocolates in celebration.

She said: "How refreshing it will be to come here and not see all the lorries and the mess any more.

"It's been appalling and we're glad to see the end of this particular era."

Chelson Meadows was once just that, an area of low-lying ground where cows grazed in the grounds of Saltram House.

It later became a racecourse and was even briefly an aerodrome before it was compulsorily purchased by the local authority as a tip.

For the past 45 years the Palladian frontage of Saltram has been compromised by the tip.

The pile of rubbish has grown and grown until it is now 36m (118ft) deep and the views to Plymouth Sound from the house will never be regained.

Until 1806 it was known as Schilleston, or Chelson Creek
Became airfield in early 20th Century
Site covers 200 acres (80 hectares)
Holds 15 million tonnes of waste
The effect on Saltram, which has been in the hands of the National Trust since 1957, is not just visual. Seagulls and the smell have also announced the tip's presence over the years.

Bryher Mason, Saltram's house and collections manager, said: "When I came here about a year ago I was quite surprised to have this level of visual intrusion on a National Trust property.

"The smell has been pretty bad when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction."

Under pressure

But the tip could be beneficial in the long run because methane and leachate coming from it will make the land unusable for housing in the foreseeable future.

Saltram already faces development pressure on the southern side of the 500-acre park, with 1,500 houses planned at Plympton Quarry.

Ms Mason said: "It's a relief that Chelson will become a neutral space and it cannot be used for housing."

The trust has even put in a new route, the Serpentine Walk, in the house's gardens for people to enjoy the views.

Saltram is one of many rural trust properties under pressure from urban development.

Some, such as Speke Hall in Liverpool, are completely surrounded by housing estates.

A new town at nearby Sherford Valley is expected to put more pressure on the parkland at Saltram which is currently free for visitors.

The trust, along with English Heritage, has made a number of fields on the park's flanks protected by listing them as heritage landscape.

Ms Mason said: "The more housing around Saltram, the more value there will be on having this green space."


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