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Anger as fire chokes whole area
11:20am Sunday 1st September 2013 in News
FURIOUS residents have hit out after a green belt site in Benfleet was turned into a bonfire.
Huge plumes of smoke wafted over homes after a fire was started in fields off Glebelands creating “stifling smog”.
The fire was started after trees cut down from the fields were burnt at about 9am yesterday.
Worried neighbours were left coughing as smoke entered their homes and ash started falling on the streets.
Steve Guest, of Glebelands, Benfleet, said: “They’d been cutting down large swathes of trees for 48 hours, but then they just put them in a huge pile and burned them all.
“It was like a smog. These massive plumes of smoke went everywhere and ash was falling on my car like it was snowing.
“What we’re most upset about is that we were given no notice.
Everyone was really worried.
“They could’ve at least let us know to shut the windows.”
Christine Guest, said: “My husband has chronic asthma so it was lucky he wasn’t around, or it could’ve affected him quite badly.
“A lady down the street said her daughter couldn’t breathe it was so bad. Now the whole house smells of smoke.”
Environmental Health officers from Castle Point Council were called to inspect the site following complaints from residents, while firefighters were called in to put out the fire.
A fire service spokesman said: “We were called at about 10.19am regarding a bonfire causing a statutory nuisance.
“We sent one fire engine and the blaze was extinguished by 10.55am.”
Councillor Jackie Govier claimed she could smell the smoke from where she lived in Moreland Close, Thundersley.
She said: “The fact is, whoever has done this didn’t give any notice this was happening, and questions need to be asked about whether this really was the best time to be doing this.
“There was probably a lot of wildlife nesting on the site at this time of year.
“The last thing we want is fires being started deliberately.”
A spokeswoman from Castle Point Council said: “We received a complaint from residents concerning a bonfire burning on land at Glebelands.
“An environmental health officer visited the site established that a statutory nuisance was being caused by smoke from the bonfire.
“The officer took informal enforcement action against the individuals responsible and arranged for the fire service to be called, who put out the fire.”
The site is already the subject of controversial plans by developer Fox Land and Property to build 165 homes.
The firm is taking secretary of state for Communities, Eric Pickles, to the High Court after refusing to grant them permission to build there.
The company denied any knowledge of the activity as it was not the owner of the site.
The land was purchased for £125,000 by Richard Lewin through his firm Bradstrong in 2003.
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