Beith accused of ‘political pointscoring’ in commons

Sir Alan Beith beside the A1

Sir Alan Beith beside the A1

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Berwick’s MP has described the area’s Conservative candidate as pressuring the Environment Agency to act leniently on a company flouting its permit conditions

The row with candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan centres on the fire at an old brickworks at Thrunton, on the A697, in September.

Since 2010, when the brickworks closed, the site was made available to Blackwater (North East) Ltd., for the storage of waste carpet.

Fire crews managed to cool the burning carpet, but a hard shell developed, preventing it going out completely. The volume of water involved meant that waterways were under threat from pollution - due, Sir Alan said, to carpet bales lying “outside the area where they were permitted to be kept, which meant that instead of being on a hard concrete area, they were on porous ground that could soak up the contaminated run-off water”.

The fire was finally put out in February this year.

Sir Alan continued: “The Environment Agency has resisted all calls for it to take action to clear the site and charge Blackwater, the operator, with the cost. What confidence can we have that Blackwater will do anything? It has done nothing at all to deal with the fire or the pollution it has caused.”

He told Parliament how breaches of permit conditions were found on several occasions between 2011 and the day of the fire, as well as at another site owned by Blackwater, at Millfield.

A Freedom of Information request found that the only representation to DEFRA suggesting they not act came from Mrs Trevelyan, whose name was not redacted.

Sir Alan described this as “deplorable political pressure on the authorities not to act to protect my constituents.”

But Anne-Marie Trevelyan responded that she was “disappointed” about “political point-scoring”.

She said: “Blackwater Ltd asked for my assistance with regard to delays in the approval of an end-of-waste licence application for the production of recycled carpet fuel briquettes and I liaised with Defra on that matter.

“The company was storing waste carpet with a view to using it to produce a new fuel product.

“Many of our local businesses need a loud, supportive voice to help them grow and create local jobs, and that is what I will be continuing to do.

“I was not involved in the separate issue of the licensing at the Thrunton works and the storage of waste carpets at the factory site.

“Correspondence from Defra indicates that this matter was being managed by the Environment Agency. I am disappointed that our MP has chosen to play party politics with such a difficult situation.”

Dan Rogerson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, assured Sir Alan: “On the point about interference, I have made it clear that we expect the agency to intervene early.

“It is not my understanding that anything resulted from any contact there may have been with the Department on issues such as this, and in discussions with the agency I have made it clear that I expect it to tackle such problems early. “

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