Faster decision-making and a clear lead authority could have prevented the disastrous Averies waste fire which burned in Swindon for 57 days, councillors were told.

And the government should be lobbied to change the law to increase council powers to inspect and regulate waste disposal sites.

Members of Swindon Borough Council’s scrutiny committee received the long-awaited final report of the committee’s task group into the blaze which burned for nearly two months at the Marshgate waste and recycling site near the Greenbridge Retail Park in the summer of 2014.

READ MORE: Swindon's longest ever fire 'could have been prevented'

The report’s author, councillor Steve Weisinger, said a system of having to agree all decisions between Swindon Borough Council and the Environment Agency prevented swift action being taken against the Averies brothers Lee and David, who were storing illegal amounts of waste on the site to avoid the cost of dealing with it properly.

He said: “Different bodies couldn’t make decisions without consulting each other. there was a lot of back and forth which cost a lot of time.

“Either the local authority should have authority to take action, or it should go to the Environment Agency.”

One of the ward councillors for the area, Roger Smith, said: “This wasn’t the only fire – there was one in 2013 at the Averies site in Brindley Place which was owned at the time by the borough council. Could the council have been more proactive in doing something to minimise the risks of these sites?

“We can’t change the Environment Agency, what changes can we make?

Coun Weisinger said it could have been more inquisitive – but had upped its regulatory control of such sites since the fire.

He said: “The property team could have put more pressure on Averies.” 

He said Averies was not paying the rent it owed for the site but while visits were conducted they were "ineffective in getting anything done.”

He recommended visits were made every six months and were reported to the cabinet member responsible. 

Coun Weisinger added: “If we talk to our MPs and parliament to change the law as recommended in the report this will make Swindon safer.”

Councillor Russell Holland asked that the report be put on the agenda for the next cabinet meeting in July. This was accepted by the committee and council leader David Renard.

After the fire at Marshgate which cost £500,000 of public money to put out, Averies Recycling went into administration in late 2014 and liquidation the year after.

In 2018 the brothers were found guilty at Swindon Crown Court of breaching the Environmental Protection Act.

Lee Averies was given a 12-month sentence suspended for two years. David Averies was fined £4,208 plus costs of £50,000.

The Environment Agency pointed to a successful prosecution of the Averies brothers in response to the scrutiny committee report.

The agency said: “Our investigators worked closely with a number of agencies, including Swindon Borough Council, to bring Lee and David Averies to court. The men showed total disregard for the environment.

“The Environment Agency secured a 12-month suspended prison sentence for Lee Averies, who was also given a five-year ban from the waste industry.

“David Averies was fined £4,208 and ordered to pay costs of £50,000. 

“Our complex investigation also obtained a proceeds of crime order forcing Lee Averies to pay back £200,000.

“We continue to do everything we can to prevent waste crime and, as we did with Averies Recycling, we punish those who profit from it."