Sent to warmwell late on January 22..
"Please find below a Press Release that has come to light from the Council that was never "read out" or published, which illustrates another official corner of deep concern about the way DEFRA/Labour handled .. FMD"

Foot and Mouth Public Inquiry

Statement to be read out to the Public Inquiry on 15.01.02

Castle Morpeth Borough Council emphasises in its evidence how the statutary role of the Borough Council as regulator has been neglected in this crisis. Regrettably this has continued into this Public Inquiry in that the Council was not asked to contribute to the session on overall management of the the crisis and adequacy of liaison, or communications, advice, guidance and information. The Council hopes that, and requests the panel to take particular note of its evidence in those respects.

The Borough Council has a statutory role as outlined in its evidence in relation to Air Pollution and Land Contamination. These roles are well known to Defra as the commissioning Government Department, and to the Council's partner agencies, the County Council and the Environment Agency, both of whom have been involved in the Council's Air Quality review and contaminated land inspection strategy. Throughout the crisis Castle Morpeth Borough Council provided duty officer cover 24 hours a day 7 days a week through its Environmental Health emergency line. This public number is known both to the County Council and District Council Officers, nor did its fragmented way of working ensure that these officers always worked effectively together in an appropriate way. The Council further expresses its concern that Defra did not effectively utilize local councillors and community representatives.

The Council's view is that liaison has been wholly inadequate and in fact was non existent in relation to the Burial Site, and that it was misinformed in relation to the Hemscott Hill burn site. Neither site was set up with adequate controls in place.

The lack of liaison led to inadequate management of the sites, for example Defra informed Castle Morpeth Borough Council that it had taken advice from the Environment Agency, when in fact the Environment Agency only offered advice in one regard - the protection of groundwater. Another example was that the County Council used tyres as a fuel at Hemscott Hill until this was discovered by Castle Morpeth Council Officers, the County Council then agreed to stop the practice.

Castle Morpeth Borough Council would emphasise that the lack of liaison and subsequent lack of environmental controls led to unnecessary nuisance and perceived health concerns together with unacceptable worry and anxiety for affected communities.

Castle Morpeth Borough Council finds it a matter of deep regret that in this crisis of tragic proportions, both in terms of the farming and tourism industries and residents of the county, Castle Morpeth Borough Council was forced to consider legal action against Defra or a partner agency.

Notes to Editors

Representatives of CMBC will today 15.01.02 give evidence relating to disposal of carcases and ash from pyres.

The Cpincil is represented by Councillor David Hall and Mr Alan Purdue Principal Environmental Health Officer

Further Information can be obtained from Councillor David Parker on 01670 516218

(In handwriting) Only 5 samples taken - inadequate Council has request more after another dump area found - said Alan Purdue

- a burial pit and a pyre site - has seen the community change irreversibly Where there has always been a resilient cheerfulness and willingness to accept adversity, a trait learned the hard way during the tough days of the coalmines, there is now also a deep distrust of authority Widdrington gained its new and infamous recognition on April 1, when emergency planners at what was then the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, announced that a site near the Chevington Opencast would be ideal for the disposal of tens of thousands of dead animals Nearby Hemscott Hill, near the beautiful sandy shore of Druridge Bay, would also become a burning site ...
From Robert Brookes article in The Journal October 27 2001
Newcastle Disease Emergency Control Centre News Release 20 April 2001


Following extensive discussions today between Castle Morpeth BC and MAFF in response to numerous complaints from distressed residents about smoke and smells from the Hemscott Hill and Widdrington disposal sites.

Hemscott Hill
We have agreed that the last lorry will go into the site on the 26th April, some four days earlier than anticipated, and that the burning, with the smoke and smell nuisance, will be completed by 29th April.
The site cleansing will start on the 30th April. By the 4th May the field will be ploughed and sprayed, fences restored, buildings and wagons removed in time for the May Bank Holiday weekend.
In preparation for this wind-down, only animals that cannot be burnt on farm in the locality of an outbreak will be taken to Hemscott Hill.

Widdrington Burial Site
Castle Morpeth BC and MAFF also discussed smells emanating from this site. Castle Morpeth BC representatives were told about the measures MAFF have already taken to try to mitigate the smells, and the further improvements in hand and being planned.
These include further methane extraction facilities, and deodorisation plant. Further suggestions from Castle Morpeth for capping the trenches will be investigated. As the burial site at Tow Law in Co. Durham is expected to be opened next week the demand for the use of the Widdrington site should reduce, if there are no significant increases in FMD cases in Northumberland.

Castle Morpeth BC will continue to record complaints and actively monitor the situation. They reserve the right to take further action if necessary. Site visits for environmental health officers will be arranged.

Issued by the Newcastle DECC media centre, Tel 0191 202 3619/3603 Contact details:

Jan Anderson Tel: 01670 514351 Email: Castle Morpeth Borough Council The Kylins Morpeth Northumberland NE61 2EQ


Foot and mouth crisis: Blockade to expose dangers of pyre

By Paul Stokes FAMILIES blockaded lorries taking carcasses to a foot and mouth disposal site yesterday, amid increasing anxiety about the environmental and health effects of the cull.
Protesters in Widdrington, Northumberland, prevented the vehicles from reaching Hemscott Hill where 400 carcasses a day are being added to an enormous pyre. They are worried about the effects on their children as smoke drifts into their homes each day.
The blockade came after 20 people stormed out of a packed meeting in the parish hall at Linton on Thursday, protesting at "a criminal lack of concern for public health".
Peter Kull, who helped organise the blockade, said: "We have been trying for days to get someone to listen to us, but the borough county councils will have none of it. It is time for action."
Castle Morpeth borough council will discuss the problem with Ministry of Agriculture officials and could take out a nuisance order against Maff. The council has received 35 complaints about the smoke and smell.
Jan Anderson, acting head of environmental services, said: "We have the statutory power to serve notice on anyone causing a nuisance, including Maff, though they can choose to ignore this."
More than 200,000 animals are being dumped into huge pits at Widdrington. ...
MAY - Letters to Morpeth Herald Extract:On a healthy, hopeful, note, I know that the County Chief Executive Alan Clarke and Borough Chief Executive Peter Wilson are working together closely and I earnestly hope that councillors of every persuasion can do the same (without destructive criticism) and just maybe we might get some compensation for the people of the Widdrington Ward - after all their suffering they deserve it. ...

Funeral pyre ash will be shifted to landfill site
The Northern Echo

Helen Miller 25/06/2001
Ash from a mass foot-and-mouth funeral pyre will be stored on Teesside before being shipped out of the region. Specialist contractors wearing protective clothing and special helmets are expected to start work this week digging up ash from the former burning site at Widdrington, Northumberland. It will then be taken in sealed containers by lorry to a rail freight depot in Middlesbrough, from where it will be transported by train to a landfill site - which has yet to be identified - elsewhere in the country. A spokeswoman from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that although the ash would be stored in Teesside, it would not be there for any length of time because a burial site would be quickly identified. The Hemscott Hill site at Widdrington was used to burn thousands of cattle over five years old, and the ash has been lying there for almost two months. The Defra spokeswoman said the transportation of the ash presented no risk to people living near the site. She said: "Samples of ash have been taken from the site and have been analysed. The material is considered not to be dangerous.

Fears over foot-and-mouth ash Lucia Charnock 28/06/2001

Fears over foot-and-mouth ash Lucia Charnock 28/06/2001 SHOCK greeted the news last night that more than 3,000 tonnes of ash from burned foot-and-mouth animal carcasses is to be temporarily stored on Teesside. Preparation work is already under way so that lorries can begin the task of removing the ash from a mass burial site at Hemscott Hill, near Widdrington, in Northumberland.
The remains will be transported to the Cleveland rail head site operated by Freightliner at the Wilton site near Redcar.

Anger flares as more pyre ash found

icnewcastle Journal Hundreds of tonnes of ash have been found buried at a North-East foot-and-mouth disposal site which was supposed to have been cleared a month ago. The discovery, at the Widdrington site in Northumberland, has sparked fury in nearby communities. Local people watched in disbelief yesterday as contractors used a mechanical digger to scoop soil and ash on to lorries at Hemscott Hill, where a vast pyre was used to incinerate thousands of dead sheep and cattle.
Widdrington councillor James Grant, who campaigned for better consultation between the authorities and residents, described the latest situation as "absolute mis-management." ....... "It goes against everything we have been promised and makes the case for a full independent PUBLIC INQUIRY even more justified," he said......Sept 22

Villagers lift veil of FMD secrecy Newcastle Journal

Sep 28 2001
By Dave Black, The Journal
Villagers living near a mass foot-and-mouth disposal site have won an important victory in their latest battle with Defra officials over alleged secrecy.
Local people are to be formally consulted about plans to restore and make safe the carcase burial site at Widdrington, Northumberland where more than 134,000 slaughtered animals are buried in pits.
They have been fighting for months to be allowed to see the restoration plans amid fears that the legacy of the burial operations could mean health risks and problems of foul smells for years to come.
Now Defra has withdrawn from its previous insistence that the plans are confidential and should not be opened up for public scrutiny.
Northumberland County Council will now consult with local community representatives, as well as technical experts and the Environment Agency, on the safety and suitability of the restoration scheme.
Villagers yesterday welcomed the decision but said it had only been achieved because of their efforts to ensure the plans were not kept secret.
Complaints of secrecy by Defra have re-surfaced in the past week after work to excavate and re-bury carcases at the burial site was carried out without the knowledge of local people. That followed the revelation that 600 tonnes of ash-laden material was being removed from the foot-and-mouth pyre site near Widdrington months after locals had assumed the work had been completed. The restoration plans for the burial site were submitted to the county council by Defra earlier this month, marked confidential. Following pressure for public consultation from Widdrington county councillor James Grant and council planning officer Mary Campbell, Defra has agreed to back down. Coun Grant said: "Defra has claimed for some time that the plans were being kept confidential at the landowner's request but when I contacted UK Coal I was told they were happy to go along with whatever the county council wanted to do. "We will always have 134,000 carcases buried at Widdrington and it was ludicrous to suggest that local people should not be consulted about plans to seal, restore and monitor the site. "This victory for openness has only been achieved because we refused to accept Defra's stance that the plans were confidential. There is too much secrecy and because we pushed as a community, with help from the county council, we have managed to get access to the proposals and have our say."
September 28

16 October

Anger at FMD clean-up delay - The Journal

Fresh anger erupted yesterday after Defra was given more time to prove that a controversial North-East foot-and-mouth disposal site has been made safe. Council environmental health officials have agreed to extend a deadline - which expired yesterday - for Defra to provide clear evidence that the pyre site near Widdrington, Northumberland has finally been de-contaminated.
Defra asked Castle Morpeth Borough Council for another two weeks in which to submit a technical report which must include a risk assessment showing that the Hemscott Hill site has been properly cleaned up.

The move sparked renewed anger among villagers in the Widdrington area who are furious that Defra and the landowner are refusing to allow them access to the restoration plans for the former pyre where thousands of slaughtered cattle most at risk of having BSE were burned. A major biosecurity operation was carried out in June and July to remove thousands of tonnes of dioxin-contaminated ash from the site in sealed lorries. But last month it was revealed that contractors were removing a further 600 tonnes of ash-laden soil from the site, weeks after the work was supposed to have finished.

Left to bear the scars for decades to come

Newcastle Journal Oct 27 2001

Community aims to win compensation

By Robert Brooks
Widdrington gained its new and infamous recognition on April 1, when emergency planners at what was then the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, announced that a site near the Chevington Opencast would be ideal for the disposal of tens of thousands of dead animals Nearby Hemscott Hill, near the beautiful sandy shore of Druridge Bay, would also become a burning site Lorraine Donaldson has vivid memories of those early days She said: "They started burning carcases to the rear of my house before we had been given any official warning. The mother of two, who lives at Lintonburn Park in Widdrington Station with daughters Sophie and Charlotte, added: "I only found out from a friend that there were diggers at what was soon to be the burial site next to the village. I was stunned "We suffered the direct effects of the smoke from those burning animals and, at first, had no idea about the potential effects
"It was only when people realised what a total fiasco the entire operation was that we started to really worry about what was true and what was not. The fear, she says, is that their children will bear the legacy of foot-and-mouth in the decades to come
She added: "I moved to a rural area because I wanted to give my daughters a better environment to grow up in than a town or city. The actions of those in authority have robbed my children of that choice. They didn't ask anyone here about their concerns - they just went ahead and did it anyway "There are still questions which have not fully been addressed, and only a full and independent public inquiry will give us those answers we need. Out of every negative comes a positive, she believes "Never again will anyone be able to come to Widdrington and dump their waste on our doorstep," she says James Grant is another Widdrington resident who found himself thrust into the fray He eventually stood as a borough councillor during the summer elections, and has dedicated himself to lobbying for compensation for all the communities affected He said: "Widdrington has been the dumping ground for everything other places didn't want on their doorsteps. He added: "We fought and won against plans to build a nuclear power station at Druridge Bay, we fought sand extraction there, and we have fought repeated attempts to extend the opencast mining "The fight is on now to win the compensation which the whole community was promised. So far we haven't seen a penny of it - but we'll keep fighting for what is our right.
October 27 2001