Westwood Industrial Estate fire debris remains on site

Mounds of debris pile up at the Westwood site. Photo: Frank Leppard

The waste left over from a huge warehouse fire at Westwood Industrial Estate remains on site two months after firefighters extinguished the blaze.

Mounds of ash and debris lay piled up within the wreckage of the former Hilger Analytical unit  as authorities attempt to enforce the site operator to remove it.

Acrid fumes billowed across Thanet after 16,000 bales of illegally stored household waste caught fire on September 15.

The Environment Agency are investigating

At the height of the inferno 14 fire engines and 80 firefighters were at the scene. Northdown Primary was closed due to “unsafe carbon monoxide readings,” and there were reports of Thanet children complaining of health problems including chest infections and asthma attacks.

Firefighters remained at the site for three weeks as the two-tonne bales, tightly wrapped in plastic, continued to smoulder.

Neighbouring businesses, including fitness centre CrossFit, were forced to close as the fumes continued to pollute the air.

A spokesman from the EA confirmed their investigations were continuing. They said: “Throughout this incident we have worked tirelessly alongside our emergency partners to ensure that affected communities and the environment are protected.

Photo Frank Leppard

“Our focus on requiring removal of all waste from the premises.  It is the operator’s and then the landowner’s responsibility to clear up the site.

“We continue to carry out regular site inspections and all available regulatory powers are being used to ensure the site is cleared as soon as possible.”

The Westwood industrial unit blaze Image Simon Moores

The site owner Conservation Property Holdings, registered in the British Virgin Islands, claimed they had rented the property out and  RDF (Refuse-derived fuel) was stored at the unit after a lease was signed.

Business rate holder DW Lands, based in Honiton, Devon, was issued an enforcement notice in May requesting they remove the waste. The Environment Agency says this notice was “ignored.”

The firm’s director David Weeks of School Hill, Stoke Gabriel, claimed he was merely acting on behalf of a tenant but The Isle of Thanet News has seen no confirmation of this.

In September a boy and two girls, all aged 12 from Margate, and a 13-year-old girl from Margate were arrested on suspicion of arson. They were released pending further investigation.

No legal action in connection with the fire has been taken to date.

 

2 Comments

  1. This has surely gone on long enough and is beyond time that the authorities enforced this through the courts, which is what should have happened last year when brought to their attention. That should have made sure it was removed before it caught light. The EA should now get it sorted to avoid any recurrences and save residents of Thanet from further toxic poisoning. It simply shouldn’t be allowed to sit there polluting us. The lack of taking responsibility by the persons responsible should not mean no action on site. Take them to court and get it shifted!

  2. If the owners from who I understand are based in some offshore country do not do as they are told, the council should clear the site then take ownership of the site and auction it off to recover the cost of the fire service and clear up cost.

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