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Blaze delays wood fire tests

Key tests to determine safe storage practice for recyclable materials to reduce the impact of fires are being delayed because of a blaze near the site in Yorkshire identified for testing.

A continuing fire at the abandoned former Wagstaff Total Waste Management site at Great Heck, near Selby, has led to complaints from local residents about smoke and smells.

By coincidence, the fire test had been planned for a Stobart Biomass site next door, and the Wood Recycling Association (WRA) is reluctant to proceed if doing so would increase residents’ problems.

WRA director Simon Dowson told MRW: “It is total chance – you could not have made it up that these tests would be jeopardised by the very thing they are designed to prevent.

“The abandoned site has nothing whatever to do with the one where we plan the testing.”

Representatives of the the Environment Agency (EA) and Heck Parish Council have met to try to find a way forward.

Parish clerk Mary Farman told MRW that the EA had promised to step up efforts to tackle the Great Heck fire and that the WRA was looking to meet residents to explain how the testing would be carried out.

Dowson said the tests were needed because storage space for wood recycling was limited by stack sizes and separation distances imposed by the EA’s fire prevention plans, but there was no science to support either side’s view of safe practice and “the recyclers and the regulators are currently at an impasse”.

He said: “Ten thousand tonnes of abandoned waste, which has been burning for months now, is causing untold misery and health problems for people living at Great Heck, a village next to the proposed site of the second round of fire tests for wood.

“It is going to be difficult to persuade the people living nearby that the solution to their immediate problem will come from creating more smoke from more fires by holding the tests so close to the abandoned site, [which] is the perfect example of the need for better regulation and the impact an irresponsibly run site can have on people and the environment.”

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