Fenland Council to pay £30,000 to help clear waste left by illegal operators who disappeared after Whittlesey blaze

PUBLISHED: 21:25 08 August 2015 | UPDATED: 21:25 08 August 2015

Fire crews tackle the Whittlesey blaze.  Picture: Cambs Fire and Rescue

Fire crews tackle the Whittlesey blaze. Picture: Cambs Fire and Rescue

Archant

Five cabinet members of Fenland Council - including the leader John Clark- have agreed a £30,000 payment to Cambs fire service to remove 1,000 tonnes of waste from an illegal operation in Whittlesey whose owners have disappeared.

A report from Fenland Council says the contribution follows £160,000 paid by the Environment Agency to remove the first 2,000 tonnes following a fire in April.

Councillors were told that a fire broke out in a unit at Benwick Road industrial estate over the weekend of April 25/26 that were operating as an illegal waste site.

“In support of the successful fire-fighting operation, the Environment Agency enabled approximately 3,000 tonnes of waste material to be removed from the building and deposited on adjacent land owned by a third party,” says the report.

Following the completion of the fire-fighting operation, the Environment Agency instructed a contractor to remove approximately 2,000 tonnes of the waste material from the site to be removed.

“The reason for this removal was to ensure that no further risk could be posed by the material,” says the report. “The cost of the removal of this material was met by the Environment Agency and was in the order of £160,000.

“As a result of the action approximately 1,000 tonnes of waste material currently remains on the site of the third party landowner.”

Detailed discussions have taken place between Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, Fenland District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridgeshire Constabulary and the Environment Agency – all part of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Resilience Forum.

The report says that agreement was reached for the fire service in the removal of the final 1,000 tonnes of waste from a third party site.

It says the costs incurred as a result of problems associated with the illegal waste site where those responsible for it – although guilty of environmental offences- have disappeared.

“As a consequence the use of regulatory powers - under the Environment Protection Act of 1990 is not straightforward,” says the report. “Therefore, it is considered that the course of action being taken presents best value and removes any further risk posed by the material waste.”

James Tribe of Eastern Anglian Resources operates legally nearby and says his company was asked by the Environment Agency and fire service to help with removal of the waste from the illegal site.

“We have not been paid for our help by the EA, fire service or the land owner, so the costs reported are largely down to other parties involved and nothing related to my company,” he said.

Mr Tribe said that both the Environment Agency and fire service would confirm “that without our help starting on Sunday morning April 30 through to late Thursday of that week this building and most probably the adjourning complainant’s building would have burnt to the ground causing, and I quote the Environment Agency, a ‘terrible environmental problem for the whole area’”

He said his company had also been asked to clear other illegal sites across the country.

Fenland Council says the £30,000 will come from reserves.

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