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Wood recyclers 'not consulted' on EA fire regulations

The Environment Agency (EA) has been accused of introducing fire prevention guidelines without consultation with the Fire and Rescue Service, other regulators or wood recyclers.

The Wood Recyclers Association (WRA) said it wrote to EA head of regulated industry, Harvey Bradshaw, on 5 May to warn the Fire Prevention Plan (FPP) document would destroy existing compliant businesses if it were implemented in its current form.

The FPP is an industry-wide strategy aimed at reducing the impact of fires, for example by specifying height of stacks and space between them.

The WRA comments follow Hadfield Wood Recyclers’ decision to temporarily shut its gates to inbound waste at two sites to avoid EA enforcement action.

The WRA says it cannot understand why the EA did not wait until the completion of tests intended to inform regulation before issuing the FPP document.

The tests are investigating how fires start and develop in waste wood stacks and the WRA said it is working with the EA, the Chief Fire Officers Association, London fire brigade, the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum, the Environmental Services Association and Stobart Biomass to speed up the process.

The association said a number of its members have confirmed that the maximum stack sizes, 167 tonnes for unprocessed wood and 33 tonnes for processed, and separation distances required by the FPP are commercially unworkable.

Simon Dowson WRA Wood recyclers

WRA director, Simon Dowson (left) said there was an inconsistency in EA approach.

“I have recently visited a site which is withdrawing from handling waste wood because the EA are insisting they comply with FPP and they cannot do so profitably and another where thankfully the local officer has allowed them to continue as before because it was obvious they would not be able to operate under the limited stack sizes specified in FPP.”

The association’s chairman, Andy Hill said: “We will continue to work hard with stakeholders to establish the science in order to create a relevant, sensible and commercially viable position.

“To this end the WRA are funding further burn trials scheduled for September. We remain hopeful that the EA will continue to work with us to reach a sensible position.”

Hadfield stopped accepting low grade wood at its main recycling facility in Manchester on 26 July and closed to all customers at its Middlesbrough site, run by sister company UK Wood Recycling (UKWR), on 23 July.

An EA spokesperson said: “The WRA has been in contact with the EA about FPP guidance and we are responding to them directly.”

The Fire and Rescue Service has been contacted for confirmation.

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