A huge blaze that raged for more than three weeks after illegally stored recycling waste caught fire at Westwood Industrial Estate is being probed as part of a national investigation.
The Environment Agency says it cannot reveal when the complex case will be brought to its conclusion and is considering serving notice to the landowner to remove the existing waste.
Last September 16,000 plastic wrapped bales of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) caught alight causing a huge plume of acrid smoke to billow across Thanet.
At the height of the inferno 14 fire engines and 80 firefighters were at the scene at a cost of more than £100k.
Northdown Primary in Cliftonville 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.
Mounds of ash and debris remain piled up within the wreckage of the former Hilger Analytical unit on Enterprise Way.
Westwood inferno was tenant’s second refuse blaze
The freehold is owned by offshore registered company Conservation Property Holdings, who have since secured the site.
The British Virgin Islands-based firm claim they were unaware the refuse was being stored illegally.
The business rate payer for site is listed by Thanet council as Devon-based company DW Land Ltd.
Companies House list the director of the firm as David Weeks.
Weeks, together with Steven Loveridge, was also a director of Woody’s Recycling which operated an illegal waste facility at Cockwells Nursery in Totnes, Devon.
Loveridge was responsible for the day-to-day operation of the business and Weeks acted as a consultant and helped set up the new enterprise.
A court heard how in 2015 it was leased to them by businessman, Anthony Joyner. All three were convicted for environmental offences at separate hearings last year.
The site started accumulating waste resulting in 13,000 tonnes of wood, tree stumps and other material such as mattresses, plasterboard and plastics being stockpiled at the site.
In early 2016 the recycling business folded leaving landowner Joyner with a £750k bill to remove the waste. Several months later on May 16, 2016 a fire broke out on the the site. It grew to the size of a football pitch broke out taking Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service five days to extinguish.
Joyner of Dundridge Lodge, Totnes pleaded guilty to knowingly permitting the keeping of controlled waste on land in respect of which no environmental permit was in force, in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health.
On November 19, 2018 Exeter Crown Court fined him £3,600 with £5,000 costs. Joyner was also ordered to pay the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service £4,250 compensation.
In his hearing before Plymouth magistrates last August, Loveridge was given a six-month prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to operating an illegal waste operation.
Weeks was fined £9,553 and ordered to pay £1,767 costs after a third hearing,again at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court, in which he pleaded guilty to a similar offence.