A business rates document compiled by Thanet council and updated in June of this year reveals the company listed as holding the rates account for the unit at Westwood Industrial Estate that has been burning for the past six days is Devon-based DW Land Ltd.
The company is listed as occupying Unit P/CIL Unit P as of January 1, 2017, with uses described as workshop and premises and factory and premises.
The data lists the rateable value for 2017 as a total of £177,600.
The director of DW Land Ltd, David Weeks, is named on incorporation documents from 2014 and as the person with significant control of the company on Companies House as of January 2018.
A spokesman for the unit owner, British Virgin Islands company Conservation Property Holdings, claimed this week that it had rented the property out. Spokesman Biju Ramakrishnan claimed RDF (Refuse-derived fuel) was stored at the unit after a lease was signed.
Thanet council’s listing of accounts for rateable value and exemptions identifies the company with an address in Totnes, Devon. The same address appears on the Companies House listing for DW Land Ltd as of December 2017.
The Isle of Thanet News contacted Mr Weeks. He said he was “an agent” for the tenant, saying of the lease: “I was there to assist.”
He added: “I prepared a planning application which never went through. It was put forward to a (Thanet council) call for sites in 2017. It was not accepted. A recommendation 12 months ago was for it to be turned into small industrial units. Everything there was ripped out, the wiring, the windows.
“The site was derelict. We (Mr Weeks and the man he says he was acting for) put together a plan but he let someone put pallets in there.
“There were lots of problems and the unit was broken into. I’m told it will be condemned.”
Refuse-derived fuel (RDF) is made up of largely of combustible components of such waste, as non-recyclable plastics – not including PVC – paper cardboard, labels, and other corrugated materials.
The Westwood unit was packed with 6,000 bales of the waste, according to the Environment Agency. Fears that the site was a potential fire hazard due to the waste in the building were raised in a BBC report in January.
Prior to that Thanet District Council officers visited the site in May 2017 and reported concerns about waste to the Environment Agency.
The agency has confirmed an investigation was carried out and is ongoing.
An EA spokesman said: “We cannot comment on the possibility of any potential enforcement action that we may or may not take until our investigation is concluded. The operator/landowner of the site is legally responsible for the removal of the deposited waste.”
Earlier this week the Environment Agency confirmed that a licence to store waste at the site had not been issued.
The spokesman said: “This is illegal waste. Our investigation is continuing. We did serve notice on the operator in 2017 to clear the site but that was ignored.
“We continue to investigate and to keep our legal options under review. We are working with KFRS and Thanet council and will continue to gather evidence of what we believe to be an illegal waste site.”
Crews were called at 6.20am on Saturday (September 15) to the blaze. At the height of the fire there were 80 firefighters, 14 engines and specialist vehicles on the scene.
Acrid smoke from the blaze has covered Westwood and Margate, and even further afield, throughout the six days it has been burning. Northdown Primary was closed due to “unsafe carbon monoxide readings.”
Due to the size and nature of the incident, the fire service is set to be working on the site for some days to come. Smoke remains in the area. Kent Fire and Rescue says as crews drag and turn the burning material over, this may result in an occasional temporary increase in the amount of smoke coming from the site.
A spokesman said: “As with any large fire the Environment Agency and Public Health England work with the fire service to assess the impacts of smoke and whether or not it is necessary to monitor air quality.
“Various factors are taken into account including the nature of the fire, weather conditions and whether or not the smoke plume is at ground level. In the initial stages of this fire it was felt there was no need to monitor air quality and for people to follow existing public health advice. All agencies and local authorities remain in regular contact to monitor and review the situation.”
Fears have also been raised over asbestos at the site. Although this is yet to be officially confirmed there is a Thanet council building control notice from February this year which describes the unit as a “vandalised building containing asbestos and possible toxic waste.” The status of the notice is marked as ‘pending consideration.’
The cause of the blaze has not yet been confirmed. There will be an investigation once it has been extinguished.
Advice from Public Health England
- People living and working in areas affected by smoke should stay indoors and keep their doors and windows closed.
• Motorists who have to travel through the smoke should keep windows closed, turn off air conditioning and keep their air vents closed.
• Some of the substances present in smoke can irritate the lining of the nose, throat and lungs, the skin and the eyes. Symptoms may include coughing and wheezing, sore throat, feeling short of breath, runny nose or eyes or chest pain. In general, exposure to smoke is more likely to affect people who have existing breathing problems, lung or heart conditions.
• People who are generally fit and well are unlikely to experience long-term health problems from temporary exposure to smoke from a fire.
• The very young and very old, smokers, and people with flu or flu-like illnesses, may also be at greater risk after exposure to smoke from fires.
• To minimise your exposure, limit the amount of time you spend outside in the smoke. People with asthma who may be in the vicinity of the fire should carry their inhaler.
• If symptoms persist seek medical advice by calling NHS 111 or by contacting your General Practitioner (GP). If a medical consultant is already treating an existing health condition, discuss your concerns and symptoms with them. In the case of an emergency call 999.
This is disgraceful. Buildings and land being owned by vague companies based in Devon, or the Virgin Islands tax-haven, with no way of actually forcing proper safety regulations. Just being left derelict regardless. This is the reality of “free-market” Britain. Where buildings that might be of economic value just deteriorate and nothing is done because “it belongs to somebody” and that “somebody”, no matter that it isn’t an actual human being with a local address, is allowed to do nothing while dangers grow.
I thought we were supposed to “take back control” after Brexit. We don’t even control empty units on local industrial estates!!
The reality is the authorities rarely enforce regulations anymore. Investigations often lead to nothing. With all the acrid polluting smoke billowing over areas of Margate for 6 days, causing the closure of services you would think that Public Health England and the Environmental Agency would monitor the smoke and act on it to get their message across to people out shopping in Margate and Westwood Cross at least. It’s disgusting as people are getting sick with breathing problems and headaches from the poisons in this smoke.
The local Health and Safety Department should be investigated because it is dysfunctional and not enough information has been made available. The public are the last consideration taking time how to get themselves off the hook for ever having allowd that huge amount of waste to become stored on that site. It is not happen over night.
The buck stops with DW Land Ltd (Mr David Weeks). He is the ratepayer (and let us hope he has actually paid) and he knew exactly what was going on – he even admits he knew about the pallets !
If Weeks had sublet it to a “friend” why did he not put his “friend’s” name forward to absolve himself of the responsibility for the business rates ? ? ?
Check the Companies House website for D. W. Land Ltd (company number 09142661), and see what other companies he’s been a director of in the past. One such company is Woodys Recycling Ltd. (company number 09695568).
Woodys Recycling Ltd. was dissolved via compulsory strike-off in Dec 2016, just one month before DW Land Ltd. became the tenant of the Westwood site. It’s not a huge leap to wonder whether he and his fellow director suddenly found themselves in possession of a large amount of waste that they couldn’t get rid of.
The tenant has a duty to identify and control any potential risk from asbestos. http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/duty.htm
States in there that they also have to provide any sub-contractors (I’ll assume emergency services will be included) of the locations and nature of asbestos if in the building. All neighbouring businesses and domestic properties should be notified.
Sounds like a gigantic Fly Tipping exercise to me, with the possibility of an insurance claim! Next thing is the owners will apply for Change of Use for domestic housing because the site is derelict!