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Worksop abandoned waste site was known risk a year before fire

An abandoned factory containing thousands of tonnes of waste was a known fire risk more than a year before a major blaze devastated the site.

Investigations are ongoing into the cause of the fire at the former Trent Valley Recycling site, off Sandy Lane, Worksop, which started on Saturday, July 28.

The fire. Pictures by Daniel Wielopolski

The fire. Pictures by Daniel Wielopolski

Now Councillor Simon Greaves, the leader of Bassetlaw District Council, has said the government “failed to heed warnings” after he said the site was reported as a fire risk back in January 2017.

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue service were still at the scene as your Guardian went to press yesterday, Thursday.

Coun Greaves said: “The shredded waste has been sat there for years.

“The council and other agencies have been lobbying government for a long time, even submitting reports a few weeks ago.

“It is a blight on the landscape with the potential for fire, and there is now a fire.”

He said the cost to clear the site of a significant quantity of baled textile waste was too high for one organisation to clear and that it needed “government intervention”.

The council has said it has been writing to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Crown Estate.

A Defra spokesmaon said: “Waste crimes are a blight on society and our environment.

“That is why we have given the Environment Agency the new powers and extra funding to tackle this scourge.

“We have also recently launched a comprehensive review to beef up the government’s approach to tackle organised waste crime.”

Crown Estate has owned the land since it was abandoned by its previous owners in October 2016 when the company was liquidated.

The Environment Agency, a public body sponsored by Defra, said it had cleared polyurethane foam from the site last year “in order to reduce an environmental risk”.

A spokesman for the agency said: “In the past we have taken action to reduce the hazard posed by this site.

“In 2017 we worked in partnership with the local authority to fund the clearance of 350 tonnes of bagged polyurethane foam – fridge foam – at a cost of £55,000, in order to reduce the environmental risk posed by the site.

“There is now about 32,300 tonnes of mixed non-hazardous industrial and commercial waste on the site.”

John Mann, Bassetlaw MP, has been lobbying ministers to get the site cleared.

He said: “It will cost £5 million to move the waste and no one is prepared to put that up for a site that is valueless.

“We got the most dangerous stuff removed, the polyurethane foam, as it was a very serious for people heath.”

He said the site was not a one-off across the county.

He said: “There are other sites like this, where owners disappear leaving waste behind. I am pressing to get this sorted – it is long overdue. It is one government department not prepared to work with another – what is needed is some common sense.

“It should have been resolved a year ago – it is costing money to deal with the fire. The government needs to listen to what I’ve been recommending.”

He also said an announcement should be made in autumn regarding these sites.

The Environment Agency said, as the site was classed as abandoned, legislation “limited powers to remove waste and clear the site, as there is no landowner to approach”.

The spokesman said: “The Environment Agency and our partner organisations have powers to intervene in exceptional circumstances, where there is a serious risk to the environment, and this is the reason the fridge foam was removed.

“All agencies are working together to ensure the cost of the operations is minimised, while ensuring the public is protected.”