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Authorities to clear abandoned fire site

Agreement has been reached to clear a burning abandoned waste tip and to try to pursue the owners for the cost of the operation.

The former Wagstaff Total Waste Management site at Great Heck, near Selby, has been periodically on fire since early October, leading to complaints from nearby residents about smoke and offensive odours.

A joint statement by the Environment Agency (EA), North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, Selby District Council and North Yorkshire County Council said they had reached agreement to clear all material from the site.

It said: “There will be a significant cost in doing so, but [the four organisations] will be looking to recover the costs from those responsible.”

The statement warned residents there was a significant amount of waste present and “clearance is likely to take some time: further work needs to be done to work out exactly how long this will take, and the best way of doing so safely and to avoid exacerbating any problems for the local area”.

Air quality will be monitored but the statement said health risks were likely to be low.

Cathy Morgan, a founder of the Great Heck Residents’ Waste Action Group, said the public bodies involved had failed to keep residents informed of progress in dealing with the site.

“If they do what they say they are going to do, I would be happy, but we’ve had no indication of time scales,” she said.

“There is a deep-seated fire which breaks out from time to time, and the fire brigade is there twice a day to douse it and makes other visits. The smells are horrible.”

Wagstaff is in liquidation, and the EA said recently that two arrests had been made in connection with the site.

By coincidence, the site is adjacent to one earmarked by the Wood Recycling Association and others for fire tests to determine safe storage practice for recyclable materials. These have been postponed and the association is to discuss the situation with residents.

Morgan said: “I’ve asked people to tell me what they think. But from what I’ve seen, I can’t see why it shouldn’t go ahead because they only intend to do the tests when the wind is away from us, and it’s all on a small scale.”

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