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MP Shailesh Vara wants Environment Secretary to intervene following Stibbington explosion

North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara will write to Environment Secretary Michael Gove regarding an explosion at a bio-fuels plant in Stibbington.

This follows a meeting between Mr Vara and residents living near the Pure Fuels plant on the Old Great North Road on Friday, December 14.

The area was rocked by what police described as a “methanol explosion” at the plant on November 28.

The Pure Fuels plant in Stibbington Photo: Andrew Stone (5690174)
The Pure Fuels plant in Stibbington Photo: Andrew Stone (5690174)

Although three people were inside the warehouse at the time, no one suffered serious injuries.

Mr Vara was joined at last week's meeting by Cambridgeshire County councillor Simon Bywater and Parish Council chairman Coun Marge Beuttell.

He said: “I am writing to the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to request a meeting in the new year to take the matter further.”

Mr Vara said residents had “rightly been concerned” regarding the impact an explosion could have on safety and to the environment.

“This incident could have been a lot worse and I am pleased that there were no serious injuries,” he said, adding that “many questions” remained unanswered following the incident.

The process for bio-fuel production currently used at the plant turns used cooking oils into other fuels which can be used to power lorries and cars as well as generate electricity.

The Pure Fuels plant in Stibbington Photo: Andrew Stone
The Pure Fuels plant in Stibbington Photo: Andrew Stone

In an earlier statement, Pure Fuels managing director Tom Lasica said the company was co-operating with investigating authorities.

“A process vessel that is only ever used for vacuum distillation (negative pressure) became inadvertently positively pressurized and its seal and valves ruptured,” he said.

Despite concerns from residents, the Environment Agency issued permits in 2017 for the plant to operate.

Coun Bywater said it was important that all agencies work together to ensure there was no further risk or harm to the community.

Residents, who wished to remain anonymous, said their lives had been made a “living nightmare” following the opening of the plant.

“For the past 18 months we have suddenly had, without notice, a 24 hour, seven days a week operating plant immediately next to our homes causing us all stress and sleep deprivation,” said one. “We are living in fear of what will happen next and I fear for the safety of the residents and the families visiting the steam railway, which is right next door.”

Another added: “It’s no surprise there was an explosion, we have been screaming at the EA and HDC for them to get their house in order. We have been warning them for almost two years it was an accident waiting to happen and we were ignored.

“It’s been and still is a living nightmare wondering when the next incident will be.”

A third said the plant was affecting “our physical and mental health”.

“There have been two fires that we know of and the recent explosion has closed them down.

“The authorities should do their job and never allow them to reopen.”

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