City council will pay up to £500k to clear former Supa Skips building in Lancaster gutted by fire

Lancaster City Council has agreed to commit up to £500,000 from its reserves to remove waste from the former Supa Skips building to bring closure for residents and businesses living close by.
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The decision follows a public survey and drop-in event that asked people for their views on what further action should take place at the site, at which a fierce fire broke out on December 3.Previous funding provided by the city council from its reserves, totalling £912,000 and almost half of which has gone to the Government in landfill tax, has now run out.

While the blaze is contained for now, it is likely that pockets of fire will continue to be found and these have the potential to escalate further.

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And with Spring and warmer weather just around the corner, the smell from the rotting piles of rubbish is also likely to increase.

Remaining waste at the former Supa Skips site in Lancaster.Remaining waste at the former Supa Skips site in Lancaster.
Remaining waste at the former Supa Skips site in Lancaster.

The results of the survey were balanced and split almost 50/50 between the two options of pausing work until funding from elsewhere is found, and the city council taking on the financial burden.

Many of those who favoured pausing work, however, also commented that the former operator of the site, A1 Supa Skips, or their insurers, should undertake this work.

With the company in administration, this is not a realistic proposition in the short term.

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Councillor Phillip Black, leader of Lancaster City Council, said after the public survey: “We are in an unenviable position and while I fundamentally believe that it is not our responsibility to pay for the clean-up of the site, if we don’t do it then who will?

“With the site continuing to pose a risk through further fires, not to mention the environmental impact of 3,000 tonnes of rotting rubbish, this is the responsible course of action despite the financial burden it places on the council.

“We will, however, continue to press Government and other agencies to contribute their fair share of the costs, and I have been in discussion with the political leadership of Lancashire County Council and together we have been exploring what support they might be able to offer.

“I’m also very sympathetic to those people who said that the owners or their insurers should pay, and the council will continue to pursue every avenue it can to get the money back, but this process could take many years.

“I’m also extremely disappointed that almost half of the funding we’ve committed has gone in landfill tax and our request to have it waived has been rejected. This alone would have made a huge difference.”

A1 Supa Skips Ltd previously operated the site but had its waste permit withdrawn by the Environment Agency in November 2022 after collapsing into administration.

The Environment Agency, which has contributed £65,000 towards the clean-up costs, is currently conducting a criminal investigation into operations on the site.