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December 11 2014.

Steve Saunders writes:

Following this week's fire at the waste company site at its North Quay premises in Newhaven, I have been thinking about the incident as a whole and I believe there is a real need to review the County Council's Waste Strategy for the Town.

Newhaven has long been regarded, (and regarded itself), as a 'dumping ground' for the County, and I think that it is high time that it supports us with a proper investigation into how the waste businesses that have congregated around the ERF, (Incinerator), look at safety. I have mentioned in my posts on social media during this incident that this is the 3rd such occurrence in as many years, and I firmly believe that officers from ESCC should be engaging with these firms to ensure that they look pro-actively at prevention of incidents like this in the future.

We have been lucky that in the previous instances no one seems to have been hurt, but the effect on the health of the public, particularly during this latest event, and the obvious problems caused to local businesses during one of the busiest times of the year, can only be guessed at.

Whilst I'm sure the company involved did not wish for this to happen, from the accounts given to me at the scene by the Fire Brigade staff, it suggests that waste was stacked floor to ceiling in the building involved. In such conditions, self-combustion is a very real possibility, (which I believe was the cause of at least one of the previous fires at North Quay).

Environmental Control Officers should be checking to ensure that best practice is employed by these businesses to prevent, where possible, the chance of such reactions occurring. Companies failing to take the proper steps should be prosecuted and held accountable for the devastation that ensues.

With this in mind, I have asked for individuals and businesses to contact me regarding any problems that this fire has caused them, so that I can take them forward to any investigation that must follow this incident.

We are all grateful for the efforts of the County's Fire Service and the crews from across Sussex over the last five days to extinguish the fire in exceptionally difficult circumstances. I know that everyone has been concerned that it has taken such a long time to bring the fire to an end, but it really was a difficult and painstaking task that needed to be handled safely and methodically. There was a real danger of a building collapse and there were thousands of tonnes of burning mixed waste that needed to be tackled. The local authority Environmental and Building Control Officers from Lewes District Council that liaised with the emergency services throughout also deserve our thanks for their advice and in keeping us updated.

Cllr. Steve Saunders
District & Town Council - Newhaven Valley