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Fury over cash snub to pyre villages

Nov 8 2002

Anger erupted last night after North-East communities blighted by the grisly
foot-and-mouth carcase disposal operations were finally told by the
Government they will not receive compensation.

After months of uncertainty, Defra confirmed there was "no statutory basis"
for compensation to be paid to towns and villages where almost 200,000
slaughtered animals were either buried or burned during last year's crisis.

The announcement came as a blow, if not a major surprise, to people in
Widdrington, Northumberland, and Tow Law, County Durham, who had to endure
the stench and disruption caused by huge numbers of carcases being dumped on
their doorsteps.

Defra confirmed to The Journal that Government compensation would not be
paid after Berwick MP Alan Beith raised the issue with Environment Secretary
Margaret Beckett in the House of Commons on Wednesday. Last night Defra said
research had been carried out on compensation for communities affected by
carcase disposal - but this referred only to contingency planning for any
future outbreak of FMD.

A spokesman said: "There is no statutory basis for such compensation in
respect of the 2001 outbreak."

In the Widdrington area, where almost 140,000 carcases were buried or burned
on a huge pyre, local people have been pressing for compensation for more
than a year.

Last night Helen Maltby, of Widdrington Station, who chairs the Widdrington
FMD Liaison Committee, said: "There will be a lot of anger but no real
surprise that Defra has finally come out and said this after such a long
time.

"It is a disgrace that after what the community here had to put up with, the
Government is not prepared to put anything back. We are working hard here to
help ourselves and it would have been nice if the Government had been
prepared to make even a token gesture in terms of compensation.

"UK Coal was paid compensation for the use of its land as a burial site but
in terms of the local community it is clearly all take and no give.

"It means we will simply have to work even harder to attract funding and
help ourselves because we are determined that something good will come out
of this." Peter Lister, a member of the residents' liaison committee at Tow
Law, where more than 30,000 carcases were buried, said: "We have ended up
with a site that cost 15m and caused untold misery to the local community
and yet we are getting nothing in compensation.

"The Anderson report clearly recommended that areas like ours should receive
funds but this response is just what we would have expected from the
Government, given their handling of foot-and-mouth."

Mr Beith said the Government had accepted the findings of the Anderson
inquiry yet one part of Defra appeared not to know what the other half was
doing. The Government was simply trying to wriggle out of its responsibility
to pay compensation and ignore the recommendations of the report, he said.

"What is Mrs Beckett doing to dispel the impression that, although the
authorities could find Widdrington pretty quickly when they had more than
100,000 carcases to bury, they are not sure where it is now?"

Defra says the Anderson inquiry made recommendations only about the handling
of future FMD outbreaks and says the impact of disposal operations on local
communities has been reviewed.

The Department says it does not believe compensation would be payable in
future outbreaks either, because of new contingency plans which put
incineration, rendering and licensed landfill of carcases at the top of the
disposal priority list.