RESIDENTS living near the former Groundwell park and ride site came together tonight to express their anger against plans to move waste from the Averies Recycling fire there.
Around 60 people protested against the plans which were announced on Wednesday. Around half of the non-hazardous waste from the Marshgate base will soon be moved to Swindon Council site owned to allow firefighters to deal with the fire faster.
The blaze has been going since July 21.
Firefighters are working with Averies, Swindon Council, NHS England, Wiltshire Police and the Environment Agency to deal with the incident.
Glynis Hales, who lives in Penhill, said: “This plan needs more thought as it was decided by a few individuals and not the full council. The feeling in Penhill is that the council think we are rubbish and that they’re happy to dump rubbish here. I know that might not be the case but that is the feeling.
“I do appreciate that the people living at Marshgate are suffering but the council shouldn’t make both areas suffer.”
Residents are concerned by the affect the waste could have on air quality, nearby water and the wildlife living around the park and ride site.
Nigel Fraser, who lives in Queensfield, said: “I feel bloody angry. It is a private business who the council are putting before residents who live here. I’ve been told the waste could be here for three months but who knows it could be even longer.”
Motorists beeped in support of the protesters who were waving banners which read ‘don’t dump waste on our community’ and ‘no fly-tipping’.
Some Swindon Councillors also went to the demonstration to give their backing to the residents.
Coun Joe Tray (Lab, Penhill and Upper Stratton), said: “I think this is such a fantastic turnout with just a couple of hours notice and shows the strength of feeling in this community.
“I understand the difficult issues this fire has created but to put the waste here is a knee-jerk reaction.”
Coun Mark Dempsey (Lab, Walcot and Park North), the North Swindon Parliamentary Candidate, said: “I think it is clear to see that the residents are very concerned about this. If the council do not listen to these people they will be making a huge error.
“The site is not designed or licensed for the storage of waste. I think the authorities should be looking to use a specialised site.”
As the park and ride compound is covered by trees, the authorities claim that the waste will be out of sight. All of the burnt waste will be fully extinguished and checked before being taken to the site. It will also be covered over to reduce any adverse smells.
In addition to the high perimeter fencing at the compound there will also be 24 hour security.
Once the Marshgate fire is put out the authorities aim to return the waste to Averies as soon as possible.
“Numerous sites have been considered and the former Groundwell Park & Ride is the least worst option. Unfortunately, nowhere would be popular with everyone and this site is safe and meets the necessary criteria agreed with partner agencies. Public safety is the number one priority and I can reassure residents that no waste which poses any danger to them will be transferred to the site,” Coun David Renard, Swindon Council Leader (Con, Haydon Wick), said.
“We appreciate this is a difficult situation and remain committed to putting the fire out as soon as possible so normality can resume for everyone. I would like to take this opportunity to thank residents for their understanding and co-operation. We are also liaising with anyone who has raised questions and concerns.”
Averies has repeatedly apologised for the issues that the fire has caused to Swindon’s residents and businesses. North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson (Con) wants to see the Averies fire extinguished as quickly as possible.
He said: “Frankly, the Environment Agency should be forcing Averies’ insurance to pay for the safe storage of the waste. I’m disappointed that the agency isn’t using the full force of the law to bring this to a swift conclusion for the sake of local residents.”
Concerned residents can attend a meeting taking place at St Peter’s Church Hall, in Penhill, at 7pm tomorrow.