THOUSANDS of tonnes of unburned rubbish has started to be forcibly taken from the site of the ongoing blaze at Averies Recycling.

Environment Agency contractors have begun shifting up to 3,000 tonnes of non-hazardous waste from the Marshgate site after the company failed to comply with orders to remove it themselves.

The waste, made up of mainly non-recyclable, commercial materials, is being moved by contractors from Hills Waste Solutions to the permitted landfill site in Chapel Farm, Blunsdon.

The removal will enable firefighters to tackle the blaze, which has been burning at the site for four weeks, more aggressively.

James Mahoney, area manager at Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, said: “Following enforcement action taken by the Environment Agency, control has been taken of the Marshgate site and work is underway to remove significant volumes of waste, which has precluded fire crews from being able to tackle the blaze full blast.

“In the coming days, it is hoped sufficient waste will have been taken away so this more intensified firefighting can begin.

“This is a long and complicated operation and we are grateful for the support and co-operation of residents and local businesses affected by the fire, which we all agree has been going on too long.

“Another step forward has been taken today and rest assured we’re working hard to minimise disruption and ensure normality can resume as soon as possible.

“Inevitably, the smoke means things will unfortunately seem worse before they get better and once again I thank everyone for their patience.”

The rubbish being shifted from the site will be checked and dampened as a precaution before it leaves Averies Recycling.

When firefighters intensify their work after its removal it is expected that the cloud of smoke over Swindon that built up during the initial stages of the fire will return.

Air quality levels will continue to be monitored daily by Swindon Council and Public Health England so that local people can be advised on any necessary health precautions.

Preparations are also underway to protect the drainage systems ahead of thousands of litres of water per minute being used to tackle the blaze, which started four weeks ago.

The waste transfer operation forms part of a multi-agency plan, which is being advanced by partner organisations committed to the joint aim of putting the fire out faster for local residents and businesses.