MP challenges Minister over Thrunton fire

Sir Alan Beith
Sir Alan Beith

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith has challenged Parliament to look at the consequences of the fire at the Blackwater North East carpet recycling business at the former Swarland Brickworks site at Thrunton.

Speaking in the House of Commons today, Sir Alan said that Blackwater, who took on the site from landowner Chris Blythe in June 2011, continually flouted their licence, storing excess amounts of recycled carpet, outside of permitted areas, but the Environment Agency failed to act on any enforcement measures.

The house heard that while Blackwater was given its permit in June 2011, the following month it had breached it and the same happened in September and December that year and March 2012.

Concerns were raised with the Environment Agency by Mr Blythe, but still nothing was done.

Sir Alan added that during this time, Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate, Anne-Marie Trevelyan sent an email to Owen Paterson, Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, asking him for his assistance to help Blackwater which she described as an ‘excellent business’ which the Environment Agency was trying to ‘shut down’.

Sir Alan said: “It was an appalling failure of judgement for a parliamentary candidate to intend to put pressure on the Environment Agency to go easy on a company that was flouting its permit conditions which are put in place to protect neighbouring constituents.

“I hope the Minister can confirm that the department did nothing as a result of that email.”

Sir Alan added that there were now concerns over who was going to remove the waste from the site, which amounted to 3,000 tons.

Shadow Minister for Environment Dan Rogerson said he was ‘horrified’ to hear the story of the Thrunton fire.

He added that the site must be returned to a condition which did not pose a risk but said that the cost of removing the waste already built up was estimated at £635,000.

Mr Rogerson said that the Environment Agency needed to learn lessons from its lack of enforcement at the site.