4 Mar 2013

WRC: We’re watching you

A recycling plant which was gutted when a massive blaze broke out is to be monitored more closely in a bid to make sure it is not a threat to local residents and businesses.

The move comes after a meeting which included Derek Mackay, the Minister for Local Government Planning, Renfrewshire Council leader Mark Macmillan and chiefs from a number of agencies was organised by concerned Renfrewshire South MSP Hugh Henry.

It has now been agreed that monitoring, enforcement powers and security at WRC Recycling in Floors Street, Johnstone will all come under close scrutiny by Renfrewshire Council, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and Strathclyde Fire & Rescue.

They will use all the powers they have to examine the operation more closely.

The summit in Paisley took place after worried constituents, community activists and businesses called for action and the Labour man immediately raised the matter at Holyrood in an attempt to find a way forward in a bid to prevent a similar episode.

Mr Henry said: “My constituents cannot continue to deal with the worry and anxiety this operation causes so I have asked all the agencies to use the full powers available to them to protect residents and businesses in the area.

“I don’t pretend it will be easy to find a solution but getting everyone round the table is a first and we now have all the agencies talking to each other. I have been given assurances they will work together to monitor the operation more closely, which is a definite step forward.

“This is clearly a difficult and complex problem and there is no easy solution. I am grateful to the Minister for coming along and he has taken away a number of issues raised at the meeting and will consider them in the review he is currently conducting into planning legilsation.

He added: “The problem is that this may be more beneficial in future applications but doesn’t provide an immediate solution to the problem here in Renfrewshire and elsewhere in Scotland. The chief exectuive of Renfrewshire Council has given a commitment to have further discussion with all the relevant agencies to look at how each of them can use their powers to full effect to ensure improvement in ways the site is being operated.

“I am grateful for the contribution from George Kennedy on behalf of Johnstone Community Council who drew on his vast experience as a senior fire officer to raise a number of questions which have to be answered. We both made the point to the agencies that the fears we have that we cannot say there will never be another fire at that site have to be addressed.

“We also want action taken to tackle the on-going problem of fly infestation which is a regular occurrence at this site. I have asked the Chief Executive of Renfrewshire Council to send me an action plan from the subsequent meeting he has now held with the relevant agencies.”

George Kennedy, secretary of JCC, said: “I was very pleased to be involved in such a high-level meeting where very senior officers from SEPA, Renfrewshire Council and its Leader, the Health and Safety Executive, the fire service and police were all present.

“I was pleased to be able to represent the town of Johnstone and raise our fears about the operation and how it can impact on the community. There was plenty of talk about further investigation into the whole incident and how a site such as WRC Recycling can be made safer and how they can operate in a more controlled way.”

It has been revealed the blaze at the plant in January was started deliberately.

More than 80 firefighters from across Renfrewshire spent hours tackling the raging inferno while trains running on the main Glasgow to Ayr line were disrupted after blistering heat melted cables. Homes in Johnstone were evacuated and even air traffic controllers at Glasgow Airport were alerted about the huge smoke plume over the town.

A police spokeswoman said: “Following a joint investigation by Strathclyde Police and Strathclyde Fire & Rescue, we can confirm the cause of the fire is being treated as wilful fire-raising. No arrests have been made and are inquiries are continuing.”