Company sentenced for not operating within Fire Plan expectations

08 JUNE 2018

The sentencing of a company for not operating within the conditions of the Fire Prevention Plan Guidance highlights the risks for waste sites across the UK that do not have an approved FPP in place.

Mid-UK has been found guilty of operating recklessly with waste piles and separation gaps that were well outside FPP requirements. On sentencing, Judge John Pini QC stated "The prosecution case is that despite warnings and advice from the Environment Agency, fire prevention guidance was not incorporated into the written management systems and the planning permission was not adhered to. Had the fire prevention guidance been implemented as it should have been, and condition six [of the planning permission] adhered to the fire could have been minimised or avoided completely." 

Mid-UK had a fire plan in place that had been agreed with the local fire service, but had not implemented a Fire Prevention Plan that conformed with the then EA guidance.

The fire broke out in July 2015 in the very early days of the current FPP system. At that stage, there was still considerable confusion and uncertainty as to the precise detail of FPP requirements and which sites were required to implement it. Many will remember earlier versions that caused such confusion and were withdrawn subject to broad discussion and the final version was only agreed in 2017. The situation is further confused by differences between the environmental Agencies.

The EA's current position is that they specifically require certain sites they consider high risk and any site that applies for a permit or variation now has to include a FPP under the current Guidance. This was updated on GOV.UK on 4th May, but with no change record attached, it is difficult to know what those changes are. But it would seem that they also expect all sites to operate within the current FPP Guidance regardless of whether that has been requested.

The key message that therefore seems to come from the Mid-UK prosecution is that regardless of whether a site has been told by the EA that it must have a FPP under their current Guidance, if a fire breaks out, it is that Guidance that will be used as the basis for prosecution.