Authorities who failed to stop Michelins Farm from being used as an illegal dump for waste and for tyres have been criticised for not acting. The situation at Michelins Farm has been known about for some years, with reports being written about the green belt site being used as a massive, unauthorised dumping ground, a place too where commercial waste was regularly and illegally burned.
Despite this initial clearance, most of the waste and tyres remained on the site, even though Mr Phipps was ordered by the court to clear the site of all the waste by January 2014.
Councillor Kerry Smith from Basildon borough and county council raised the point that Rochford Council, the county council and the Environmental Agency “without a doubt” should have “thrown the book at him and make sure the land was cleared. It’s clear there is a health and safety and pollution risk.”
She continued; “if bailiffs had been sent in to clear it, to avoid a fire like this happening, then why didn’t they?”
To reinforce the point, back in July 2010 when the hazards of the tip were first reported of, the fire service had been called out to about 14 small fires in the short space of four months.
Mr Phipps pleaded guilty to running an illegal waste site, and was ordered to pay approximately £50,000 in fines and costs, he failed to comply and was jailed for six months for contempt of court last July. Despite this conviction, since then, no action has been taken to clear the site.
Fast forward to the present, Mr Phipps has now been missing since Tuesday, hours after a blaze at the site took hold, and brought parts of South Essex to a standstill with trains cancelled and roads gridlocked.
Officers from Essex Police have said that the fire is being treated as suspicious, but until forensic examination has concluded, arson cannot be confirmed.