Mp calls for action following Stibbington explosion

Shailesh Vara has called for action to be taken following an explosion near Peterborough.

Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 11:03 am
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 10:03 am
The scene of the multi-agency operation in Wansford. Photo: Terry Harris

North West Cambridgeshire MP met with residents in Stibbington near Peterborough following an explosion at a neighbouring bio-fuel plant, run by Pure Fuels on November 28.

Mr Vara was joined by Cambridgeshire County Councillor Simon Bywater and Parish Council Chair Cllr Marge Beuttell.

All three have been in contact with local residents following concerns regarding the plant and the danger posed to residents who say it is a living nightmare and they live in fear of what will happen next.

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The scene of the multi-agency operation in Wansford. Photo: Terry Harris

The process for bio-fuel production currently used at the plant turns used cooking oils into other fuels which can be used to power lorries and cars as well as generate electricity.

Despite residents’ concerns at the time, the Environment Agency issued permits in 2017 for the plant to operate.

Last month however, an explosion at the plant left two people injured with fears that there had been environmental damage. Residents were told to remain in their properties with all doors and windows locked whilst emergency services worked to secure the site.

An investigation is taking place with the relevant agencies as well as Huntingdonshire District Council, to determine the cause of the explosion and whether any enforcement action is required.

Mr Vara said: “Local residents have rightly been concerned and particularly to the impact such an explosion can have on safety and the environment, including on the River Nene which is adjacent to the plant. This incident could have been a lot worse and I am pleased that there were no serious injuries.

“Many questions remain to be answered and it is important that there is a thorough investigation and, if necessary, immediate action is taken to safeguard the site.

“I am writing to the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to request a meeting in the new year to take the matter further.”

Cllr Simon Bywater said: “It is now imperative that all the agencies work together to ensure there is no further risk or harm to the community.”

Comments from local residents, who wished to remain anonymous, include: “For the past 18 months we have suddenly had, without notice, a 24 hour, 7 days a week operating plant immediately next to our homes causing us all stress and sleep deprivation. We are living in fear of what will happen next and I fear for the safety of the residents and the families visiting the steam railway, which is right next door. Thank goodness this did not occur during one of NVR’s busy times.”

Another resident said: “It’s no surprise there was an explosion, we have been screaming at the EA and HDC for them to get their house in order. We have been warning them for almost two years it was an accident waiting to happen and we were ignored. It’s been and still is a living nightmare wondering when the next incident will be. They have had earlier fires without the explosion but they didn’t even learn then. Hopefully the Authorities will listen now.”

And a third resident commented: “These operators have continually proved they cannot work without creating excessive noise and odour and damaging our property. This is all affecting our physical and mental health. There have been two fires that we know of and the recent explosion has closed them down. The Authorities should do their job and never allow them to reopen.”

Cllr Marge Beuttell added: “The Parish Council has long been concerned about the operation of a bio-fuel processing plant directly behind the cottages of our residents, and also the number of HGV vehicles using this site for refuelling purposes.

“We are also concerned regarding the health hazards such activity brings both to the residents directly and the village as a whole. I would like to thank our MP Shailesh Vara for his support in this matter.”

The Environment Agency are asking that if anyone sees new evidence of damage to the natural environment, which may be related to this incident, to report it to their Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

Following the explosion, a spokesman for Pure Fuels said: “Following the unfortunate incident last Wednesday 28 Nov at the Stibbington site we have been busy fully co-operating with the investigating authorities. A process vessel that is only ever used for vacuum distillation (negative pressure) became inadvertently positively pressurized and its seal and valves ruptured. We are now able to say that following the thorough investigation conducted by the Police, Fire Brigade, Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive with the introduction of a safety feature to protect against positive pressure build up then we will return to full production.”