Monday 18 August
Tonnes of unburnt waste have started to be moved from the Averies Recycling site in Marshgate today, after the owner failed to comply with orders to remove it.
Environment Agency contractors have begun removing up to 3,000 tonnes of the non-hazardous waste which will create the necessary space for Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service to tackle the blaze more aggressively.
The waste is being moved by Hills Waste Solutions and comprises mainly non-recyclable, commercial material. It is being checked and damped down as a precaution before it leaves Marshgate and goes on to be transported to the permitted landfill site in Chapel Farm, Blunsdon.
It is anticipated that, within a few days, enough waste will have left the site for firefighters to be able to intensify their work. Preparations are underway to protect the drainage systems ahead of thousands of litres of water per minute being used to tackle the blaze, which started four weeks ago.
As this more aggressive firefighting begins, the smoke experienced during the early days of the fire is likely to return. Air quality levels will continue to be monitored daily by Swindon Borough Council and Public Health England so that local people can be advised on any necessary health precautions.
The waste transfer operation forms part of a multi-agency plan, which is being advanced by partner organisations committed to the joint aim of putting the fire out faster for local residents and businesses.
James Mahoney, Area Manager at Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Following enforcement action taken by the Environment Agency, control has been taken of the Marshgate site and work is underway to remove significant volumes of waste, which has precluded fire crews from being able to tackle the blaze full blast.
"In the coming days, it is hoped sufficient waste will have been taken away so this more intensified firefighting can begin. This is a long and complicated operation and we are grateful for the ongoing support and co-operation of residents and local businesses affected by the fire, which we all agree has been going on too long.
"Another step forward has been taken today and rest assured we’re working hard to minimise disruption and ensure normality can resume as soon as possible. Inevitably, the smoke means things will unfortunately seem worse before they get better and once again I thank everyone for their patience at this difficult time.”
Friday 15 August
Preparations underway for 3 week old fire to be extinguished
The multi-agency plan to deal with the fire at Averies recycling site is making headway, as measures are put in place to ensure the non-hazardous waste is removed from the site which will allow firefighters to fully extinguish the blaze faster.
Enforcement action has been taken against Averies Recycling Swindon Limited (ARSL) by the Environment Agency, with the support of partner organisations, ordering the removal of waste from the site. In the event this doesn’t happen, contingency plans are in place to carry out the essential work.
If Averies fails to comply, subject to legal proceedings, Hills Waste Solutions will work with partner agencies on the transfer operation which is anticipated to start early next week. Before leaving the Marshgate site, the waste will be checked and extinguished, before being taken to the permitted landfill site in Chapel Farm, Blunsdon. Some of the waste, which is predominantly non-recyclable, commercial material, is not alight and this will be transported first.
Clearing the waste will give fire crews the working space to create a containment area so they can begin to break the stacks of waste material down and intensify work to put out the fire. Local residents and businesses will be informed when this process starts so they are aware and can make any necessary arrangements.
It is anticipated that smoke will increase as more water is applied to the flames. Air quality levels will continue to be monitored daily and people will be advised on any necessary precautions.
James Mahoney, Area Manager at Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, said: “The plan is moving forward at speed and preparations are being put in place to facilitate waste being moved from the site. This is a complicated and difficult operation and we remain grateful for people’s understanding and co-operation, particularly those directly affected the fire.
"Due to the complexities involved, it’s impossible to give precise timescales, although we hope the first truckloads of waste will be removed early next week. The more aggressive firefighting will follow soon after and we’ll be engaging with residents and businesses in the close vicinity.
"Once again I would like to thank everyone for their ongoing support at this difficult time and reassure them that we endeavour to keep any disruption to an absolute minimum and bring this fire to the swiftest conclusion.”
Read the letter to Swindon MP from the Secretary of State for the Enviromment below.
Follow the full story lower down this page.
From the Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss to Robert Buckland MP for South Swindon, and Justin Tomlinson MP, about the fire at Averies
After a campaign by residents, MPs and Swindon borough councillors, the Environment Agency has announced it is taking action to recover the costs of putting out the fire at the Averies waste and recycling yard at Marshgate that has been burning since 21 July.
In an email, Colin Chiverton, Area Environment Manager, of the West Thames region of the Environment Agency, writes:
‘We are taking clear and decisive action, in support of Swindon Borough Council and its partners to extinguish the fire at the Marshgate site.
‘We will be using our Regulation 57 powers under the Environmental Permitting Regulations. In doing so we will seek to recover all of the costs incurred in carrying out our powers.
‘As you will know, having been to the site, the Wiltshire Fire & Rescue service (FRS) will need to space to be able to aggressively tackle the fire. We will be using our powers to ensure space is provided at the site to give the FRS room to tackle the fire.’
Swindon Council, as the lead civil organisation, had been working out a plan with the fire and rescue service to move waste from the Averies to the former Groundwell Park and Ride site so that firefighters would have the space to put the fire out. However the cost, getting onto £750,000, was likely to fall upon the council taxpayer.
Swindon councillors Mark Dempsey and Joe Tray had been campaigning in support of residents to prevent this and had contact Hills Recycling to remove the waste to one of their sites with permission to process contaminated material.
In the background Swindon MPs Robert Buckland and Justin Tomlinson made urgent representations to the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs to get the Environment Agency to take responsibility for the debacle at Averies as it had issued licences to the company and, indeed, had issued warnings for non-compliance with the permit to store waste.
Stephen Taylor, Chairperson of Strategic Co-ordination Group which is leading the multi-agency plan to deal with fire, said: “Using their enforcement powers, the Environment Agency has ordered Averies Recycling (Swindon) Limited (ARSL) to remove a total of 3,000 tonnes of waste from their Marshgate site in Swindon.
"Averies Recycling (Swindon) Limited (ARSL) will need to begin to remove the waste tomorrow. The Environment Agency will continue to work as part of a multi-agency response to this incident, with Swindon Borough Council and other partners, to make ARSL take action and remove the waste. As the operators of the site, ARSL has the responsibility to remove and pay for the waste to be removed from the site to allow Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) sufficient space for the fire to be fully extinguished.”
"Averies Recycling (Swindon) Limited (ARDL) will need to begin to remove the waste tomorrow. We will continue to work as part of a multi-agency response to this incident, with Swindon Borough Council and other partners, to make ARSL take action and remove the waste. As the operators of the site, ARSL has the responsibility to remove and pay for the waste to allow Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) sufficient space for the fire to be fully extinguished.”
Cllr Brian Mattock, Deputy Leader of Swindon Borough Council, said: “I am pleased that the multi-agency group has managed to move this challenging situation forward in a positive direction and that the waste will be moved to a permitted site. The council will continue to support all agencies involved in this difficult operation so any disruption is kept to an absolute minimum and we achieve the common goal of putting this fire out as quickly as possible.
"When the firefighters start tackling the fire more aggressively, the situation will inevitably seem worse before it gets better but I’m sure residents and local businesses are hugely relieved that there has been a breakthrough and an end is at last in sight. We remain grateful for people’s understanding and co-operation as work progresses to bring this matter to a much anticipated close for everyone.”
Justin Tomlinson MP added: "Robert Buckland and I became very angry yesterday and finally had to call the Secretary of State for the Environment Elizabeth Truss who got things moving. Obviously we’re pleased that the Environment Agency is taking responsibility for the cost which will now not fall upon Swindon council taxpayers."
Swindon Labout councillor and prospective Parliamentary candidate Mark Dempsey said: " I am delighted to confirm that the Environment Agency have agreed to implement the key elements of our 10 point Action Plan to Resolve the Averies Waste Fire, and as we recommended will force Averies to move waste to a permitted waste management facility. This means that we have won our campaign to stop them storing waste at the Groundwell Park & Ride site.
"Together we have shown the leadership that this issue needed and we have stood up for residents when they needed our help. We stood together to stop the Park & Ride site being used by the Council to store waste – a decision which could have caused huge damage to our community. We have led the way with our 10 point Action Plan by finding a waste company that would deal with the waste and showing that the Environment Agency had the powers to make Averies pursue an alternative.
"Our plan ensured the fire could be dealt with quickly; and that waste could be treated properly. I am delighted that the Council changed its mind and supported our plan. I wrote to the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency; and I am delighted that the Agency have now agreed to implement the key elements of our 10 point Action Plan to Resolve the Averies Waste Fire.
"I am delighted that through strong leadership; partnership with the community; and positive plan –we have secured this solution and brought an end to the crisis. We have shown what we can achieve for this town, if we work together and have a positive plan. It shows that we can make a difference. And today we can celebrate that."
11 August 2014
Following the public meeting of residents, Swindon Council and its partner agencies on Friday 8 August, held at St Peter’s Church Penhill (described below), Swindon Labour councillors Mark Dempsey and Joe Tray are launching a 10 point action plan to resolve the long running fire at Averies recycling site at Marshgate.
They will be making it public at 5pm on the steps of Swindon Council Offices, Euclid Street.
The plan is set out in a letter sent to the borough solicitor Stephen Taylor, the Police and Wiltshire Fire & Rescue – below.
Right, residents protesting outside the Groundwell Park and Ride site off Cricklade Road where it was proposed waste should be taken. Photo: Richard Wintle of Calyx
We have called for the Averies Waste Fire to be resolved quickly by taking the waste to a permitted waste management facility. At a public meeting on Friday night residents from North Swindon voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion asking you to do this.
We promised to show the leadership that is required and find a solution to this problem.
· Over the weekend we identified that the Environment Agency have the powers to force Averies to transfer this waste to a permitted waste facility.
· We were also challenged to find a waste facility willing to take the waste. We have now spoken to Hills Waste Management and they are willing to treat the waste.
· We have also written to Averies and the Environment Agency to call on them to resolve the issue.
We are now delighted to provide the following 10 point action plan to resolve the Averies Waste Fire.
1. Averies should be ordered to transfer the waste to a permitted waste management facility.
2. Hills Waste Management Limited have confirmed they are willing to treat the waste. It can be transferred to a permitted waste management facility with proper environmental pollution control measures. Here the waste can be properly treated in a purpose built facility.
3. Averies should be told to cover the costs of this action.
4. If Averies refuse, the Environment Agency should use their powers under the Environmental Permitting Regulations to transfer the waste and recover their costs from Averies. The Environment Agency need to provide Averies with just 5 days notice.
5. The Council and Council tax payers in Swindon should not take any financial responsibility for the waste.
6. The Groundwell Park & Ride facility should not be used to store waste under any circumstances.
7. An enquiry should be launched into the management of the Averies Recycling facility.