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Residents want fuel plant gone

Residents living near a bio-fuel plant in Stibbington said they had been waging a two year struggle to have the facility moved.

The area was rocked last week following what police described as a “methanol explosion” at the Pure Fuels plant on Great North Road.

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

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

Cambridgeshire Police this week ruled out criminal involvement in the November 28 incident and said an investigation into the matter had been launched by the Health and Safety Executive.

A HSE spokesperson said: “HSE is aware of the incident, an inspector has visited site and we are working with the EA.”

A resident who lives nearby, but asked not to be named, said their lives had been made “a living hell” since the plant opened.

“It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Trucks are always driving in and out and there is a constant hum of machinery.

“A family with children left because of the lorries - it was not safe and they could not stand it any longer.”

According to information on its website, Pure Fuels collects used cooking oil and processes it into environmentally friendly fuels.

The company's managing director, Tom Lasica, said: "Following the unfortunate incident last Wednesday at the Stibbington site we have been busy fully co-operating with the 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.

"We are now able to say that following the thorough investigation conducted by the police, fire brigade, Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive with the introduction of a safety feature to protect against positive pressure build up then we will return to full production."

Another resident who also asked to not be named, said residents had registered their objections to the plant opening when a planning application was first submitted.

“We were against it from the start but our concerns were ignored. We said something like this [the explosion] was going to happen and our concerns have been justified.”

Coun Simon Bywater (Con) of Huntingdon District Council said he shared the residents frustrations.

“But there is a process that you have to go through,” he said. “You can’t just shut these businesses down.”

Coun Bywater said he wanted to ensure a similar incident did not happen again.

He said he had arranged for North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara (Con) to visit the area later this month to “see what we can do to make sure everyone works together to find a solution”.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency, which has also been looking into the matter, said: “The response phase of this incident is coming to a close and our experts have not observed any ongoing environmental impact.

“We are now supporting a multi-agency investigation into the cause (of the explosion).

“At the request of Shailesh Vara, the MP for North West Cambridgeshire, our officers have been asked to attend a meeting with all relevant agencies and residents.

“If anyone sees new evidence of damage to the natural environment, which may be related to this incident, they can report it to our Incident Hotline on 0800 80 70 60.”

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