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Town councillors question Hills’ ability to run an incinerator as large fire breaks out in landfill site

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WESTBURY town councillors have questioned Hills’ ability to safely run the proposed Westbury incinerator, following a large fire at their sister landfill site at Compton Bassett last month. 

The fire at Compton Bassett

On arrival, fire crews found approximately 40,000 tonnes of low-grade clinical waste and general household waste alight, as well as an additional 2,000 tonnes of tyre bales, and a significant smoke plume, heading towards the south of Calne.  

Cllr Mike Sutton says that the recent fire is “worrying but certainly not surprising given Hills’ safety record on other sites they manage”. 

He explained, “One of the concerns about the proposed incinerator at Westbury, although one of many concerns, is the poor operational safety record of Hills on the site. 

“There have been several fires and we only know of those that have been reported, not to mention all of last summer, where the persistent odour from their facility caused local residents to keep their windows shut and being denied the pleasure of sitting in their own garden. 

 “It was very disappointing that the Environment Agency only looked at plans in place to manage the proposed plant and did not take into account Hills’ previous poor history. 

“The intended operation of the proposed plant brings greater potential hazards and recent history gives no confidence in Hills’ ability to manage the plant satisfactorily. 

“It is to be hoped that the latest failure by Hills to safely manage a site will be considered by the strategic planning committee when they come to deliberate on the deferred application.” 

The incinerator application, which was initially approved by Wiltshire Council last June, was put back to the strategic planning committee following the Government Minister for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP, deciding to not ‘call-in’ the application for further review, claiming he prefer decisions to be made locally. 

Wiltshire Council’s strategic planning committee voted for the deferral, saying there have been ‘material changes’ since the plans were previously approved and a decision is not expected to take place until July. 

Following the Compton Bassett fire, Westbury mayor, cllr Sheila Kimmins, has also asked whether the company can be trusted to run an incinerator.  

She said, “It is well documented that for many years Westbury has been plagued during early summer, with flies and smells from the Hills Waste site.   

“During last summer, for over five months, following what should have been a straightforward bio-filter change, the residents of the town living close to the Hills site were forced to endure the most awful stench.  This odour caused everyone to stay indoors, with their doors and windows tightly closed, when they should have been enjoying time in their gardens.   

“For a number of years, a division of Hills, Northacre, have been applying to build an incinerator in Westbury.  The residents of Westbury, the surrounding towns, villages, and Westbury Town Council have fought and are still fighting to stop this happening. 

“The recent fire at Compton Bassett (another Hills site) appears to have been started accidentally.  However, it should be making us all question, even if this fire was accidental, should we trust Hills to run something as volatile as an incinerator near a residential area?  Would you feel secure that all precautions were being taken to ensure you and your family were safe?”

One Response to Town councillors question Hills’ ability to run an incinerator as large fire breaks out in landfill site

  1. Michael Ryan

    May 13, 2022 at 11:36 am

    See incinerator article in the current issue of Big Issue in the North.

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