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Lockwood tip fire: Council taxpayers must dig deep for clean-up costs

Kirklees Council sets aside public money to clear up waste

Drone footage shot by Sky View Yorkshire of the former Hunter Group tip site at Lockwood

Council taxpayers could be landed with a massive clean-up bill for a waste tip site in Lockwood.

Kirklees Council’s ruling Cabinet has earmarked a lump sum of money to clear the former Hunters tip off Queens Mill Road.

But despite putting taxpayers at risk of a huge bill, council chiefs have refused to say how much it could cost.

Councillors are understood to have allocated an amount of money in a private session at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

But the council has refused requests by the Examiner to reveal how much they have set aside.

The tip is now abandoned and the council has said it will send in contractors from its waste disposal firm Suez to clear the site, which could take a “number of months.”

The waste mountain will then go to another disposal site but the council says the cost of that disposal is “commercially sensitive.”

It is understood the council is considering legal action against the tip operators and will try to recoup the costs.

But, at a time of council cuts to public services, it has left taxpayers in the dark about how much they could potentially lose.

In 2010 a massive waste site in Ravenswharfe Road, Scout Hill, Dewsbury , burst into flames and burned for a week.

The authorities went in and found thousands of tonnes of waste had been dumped there. The site had permission for just 700 tonnes.

Later, during a hearing at Leeds Crown Court, it was revealed that the firefighting operation had cost West Yorkshire Fire Service £800,000 and site clearance had cost another £400,000.

Two men who operated the site were jailed in 2012.

Last month the Hunters tip burst into flames and burned deep inside the waste mound for several days, putting local residents and businesses in fear.

Residents were told to keep their doors and windows shut but they were left alarmed by images of police officers wearing face masks and are concerned for their health.

Clr Andrew Cooper , Green party leader on Kirklees Council , alerted the council months ago as to what was happening at the Hunters site but the authorities failed to act quickly enough.

Clr Cooper said: “I am very unhappy with the whole situation, speaking as someone who raised this issue over a number of months.

“The regulation of waste tips is down to the Environment Agency. There’s a misconception that Kirklees is responsible.

“There becomes a problem when the unscrupulous take the money but not the responsibility.

“There’s a more general problem, however, with huge Government cuts to the Environment Agency’s budget. The Environment Agency is pulled hither and thither dealing with flooding, waste and other matters.

“The question has to be asked whether the Environment Agency has enough funding to make it fit for purpose.”

A council spokesman said of the Hunters clear-up: “At this time the council is unable confirm exact operational details as they are in the process of being agreed by all partners involved.

“It is important that this step process takes place in order to ensure that operations are carried out in a safe and regulated manner.

“We do however estimate that the waste will take a number of months to remove as there is a large amount on the site.

“All the waste removed from site will be taken to landfill by Suez who hold the council’s waste disposal contract. The cost of disposal is commercially sensitive and remains confidential.

“The council are committed to ensuring that the actions cause minimal disruption for local residents and will be communicating regularly with them to keep them updated on our progress.”

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