Clearing up contaminated land in Carpenders Park could cost the council between £1.5 million and £2.5 million, it has been claimed.

The extraordinary claim emerged during a Three Rivers District Council meeting last Thursday, when Mr McCracken was speaking on behalf of development plans at Valley View Farm in Oxhey Lane.

The plans for 14 houses and shared sports facilities were unanimously thrown out by the council’s planning committee on Thursday night- to the delight of residents who had gone along to watch proceedings.

Mr McCracken, who was speaking on behalf of the plans, which had been put in by Amba Developments Limited said: “The site is contaminated.

“This is not a matter of what you can see, it is things which you cannot recognise with the naked eye.

“Specialists have examined the site and in their expert view, the site is seriously contaminated, with among other things, asbestos, arsenic and heavy metals”.

“The cost of remediation is estimated between £1.5m and £2.5m. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 imposes duties on you to secure the remediation of the site”.

The site is registered as Green Belt land.

However, Mr McCracken also told the planning committee the cost of cleaning up the land was likely to fall on the council, particularly if the council could not identify who had polluted the site.

He said: “You are legally obliged to carry out due duties in accordance with government statutory guidance.

“Naturally, as you would expect, you can in theory in oblige either polluter or landowner to pay. Unfortunately, the combination of primary legislation and statutory guidance severely restricts your ability to do so and there is a right of appeal.

“You can oblige the original polluters to pay if you can find them but that depends on them having sufficient money and not enjoying the benefits of hardship protection.

“If, but only if you can’t find the original polluter, you can go against the present landowner, but the present land owner only has the asset of the site and that would normally lead to a waiver.

“So in reality, the burden of the duty to remediate is going to fall on the council”.

However, Councillor Ann Shaw, leader of Three Rivers District Council told the committee: “In spite of the possible inducements or threats, I believe the officers recommendations are sound ones and it is a totally inappropriate development in our green belt, so I move the recommendation.”

The plans were unanimously thrown out by councillors.