Littleport firm cleared of pollution charge following tyre recycling depot blaze

MURFITTS Industries has been cleared of a charge of causing pollution after the case brought against it in the wake of a huge blaze at its Littleport tyre processing plant collapsed.

At Cambridge Crown Court on Tuesday, the Environment Agency told Judge Jonathan Haworth that it could offer no evidence in support of the charge, leaving him with no option but to find the company not guilty.

The decision came after two days of legal arguments between the prosecution and defence over which of the Environment Agency’s expert evidence was admissible in the case.

The court case followed a fire at Murfitts site at Wisbech Road in Littleport in 2009, where more than 2000 tonnes of tyres caught fire, burning for several weeks and causing a huge plume of thick smoke to pour into the air.

Murfitts denied keeping, treating or disposing of waste in a manner likely to cause pollution.

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Yvonne Bartram, who lives opposite the site and was badly affected by the blaze, was left flabbergasted by the decision.

“I cannot believe it,” she said. “I was devastated by the fire, the state my animals were left in was shocking and there has been no comeback, they can just carry on regardless.”

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A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “This was a serious incident and we believe we were right to take the case. Having worked for two years on preparing it we are disappointed that the court decided that some of the Environment Agency expert evidence was inadmissible which resulted in us being unable to continue with the case.”

The spokesman added that since the fire, the agency had been working with Murfitts to clean-up the Littleport site, while also helping with the design of another Murfitts tyre processing plant in Lakenheath.

A spokesman for Murfitts Industries said: “Over two years ago a fire occurred at our site at Littleport arising out of a wholly unforeseen set of circumstances.

“The site was very regularly inspected by all enforcement agencies, in particular the Environment Agency, and found to be compliant with regard to fire safety and environmental licensing.

“Such compliance included well-planned systems to prevent fire and mitigate the effects should any fire occur.

“Notwithstanding the company’s compliance record and systems on site, the Environment Agency pursued a wholly unnecessary prosecution arising out of the fire which collapsed.

“While pleased that the court has formally returned a not guilty verdict, the prosecution offering no further evidence, the company is exasperated that this unnecessary and costly prosecution was ever brought at all.”

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