Published Tuesday 21 November 2017 at 10:52
The new owner of a fire-ravaged plastics recycling facility in Blackburn has pledged to step-up security and clear the site ready to make way for a new development.
The good news comes after a difficult few months for residents left living in constant fear that another fire would break out.
A multi-agency meeting was held with Dennis Rogers, whose company, Driftdale Ltd has recently bought the site. Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Lancashire Fire and Rescue and representatives from the Environment Agency met with Mr Rogers to discuss securing and clearing the site as a matter of urgency.
Mr Rogers gave reassurances that he has instructed manned 24-hour security on the site, seven days a week, which has been in place since Tuesday and is working on a plan to start clearance works at the site.
He hopes to submit a planning application to the Council in January for residential housing.
Mr Rogers wants to meet with residents and host a public meeting to discuss early plans, seeking residents’ views and listening to concerns. He asked residents to bear with him for the next few weeks whilst he works to contract specialists to clear the vast site.
Mr Rogers said:
The immediate priority is to secure and clear the site. I want residents to know they have my assurance that I will be working with the Council, fire and Environment Agency to ensure this is done as soon as possible to give the community the reassurances they need.
Having visited the site today I fully understand their concerns and will be happy to meet with residents, businesses and other agencies to discuss the next steps that are in everyone’s best interests.
Harry Catherall, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Chief Executive, said:
We welcome the news that this site has been sold and is in new ownership and have met with the site’s new owner to discuss next steps.
We appreciate how difficult it has been for residents and businesses in the area. The site has been a blight on the neighbourhood for some time, causing undue worry, concern and inconvenience for residents whilst also putting enormous pressure on emergency services and partner agencies responding to serious incidents.
This is the best outcome given that the site is now in private ownership and residents have been given assurances that they will start to see positive activity here in the coming weeks.
The news comes after the latest of four fires broke out at the site in the early hours of Monday, November 13. It was the fourth serious fire at the site in the last 10 weeks causing residents to be evacuated and several road closures. At the height of the blaze around 90 firefighters using specialist equipment were at the scene to tackle the flames.
Neil Hardiman, Lancashire Fire and Rescue’s Service Delivery Manager, added:
We feel these are all positive steps in the right direction. The fires at this site have had a huge impact on people in the area and indeed on our resources.
We appreciate that the quantity and location of the waste has been a major concern for the local community so we fully support the new owner’s arrangement to have 24 hour manned security on site. We will continue to work together as a multi-agency partnership to ensure the best outcome for residents.
Last week, the previous owner David Holt pleaded guilty to three environmental waste offences at Blackburn Magistrates. This was the result of a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016. He is due to appear before Preston Crown Court on January 2 for sentencing.
Karl Hunter from the Environment Agency said,
We have provided advice and guidance to the new land owner on their legal obligations to remove the waste from site and ensure correct disposal, without causing harm to the local community and environment. We will continue to monitor the site closely and work with our partner organisations to ensure this happens to minimise the impact on the local community. If residents have any concerns they can call our incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
Police have revealed the fourth fire was thought to have been started deliberately.
Insp Abid Khan, urged anyone with information to come forward.
We believe this fire was caused deliberately and so if you have any information, or any CCTV which you may think could help us with our investigation into this and the previous fires, please get in touch on 101.