On Bank Holiday Monday I posted a story about a filthy fire. As I said in that post, I had left a message asking the council’s Environmental Health Officer to phone me back. The message was left with the council’s emergency out of hours service.
By 09:40 on Tuesday morning I had not received a phone call, so I phoned the council. The main switchboard told me that the council did not have an Environmental Health Officer (see Note 1 below) and asked me what my call was about. She wanted to know whether to direct my call to “pollution” or “safety”. I opted for pollution.
By chance I was put through to the “pollution officer” for my district. He told me that he was one of three pollution officers for the unitary authority area of Peterborough. He hadn’t received my message from the emergency out of hours service (and as I write this post he hasn’t emailed me to tell me he’s found it), so I briefed him on what had happened. How the fire service had put the fire out once toxic materials were found on it. And he confirmed that burning the kinds of items described would constitute an offence under the Clean Air Act
I asked him about the council’s out of hours service which fails to provide a mechanism for either putting out a toxic fire, getting council staff to the event, or even reporting it, or even getting a message through. He explained that there would be a high level decision determining spending on this service and that he would try to help me understand where that decision had been made. Meanwhile he said that the emergency services should certainly be called if all else failed. He mentioned how noise nuisances are regularly reported to the police out of hours. He said he would go and inspect the situation. This particular fire I will now stop posting about until I know whether or not the council decides to prosecute.
He rang me back later in the day to report on progress and agreed to ask a colleague to give me a call about how the council had made its decisions about out of hours services. He also told me that the broken links had been fixed and would be correct on the website by the morning.
This morning I checked the links. One has been removed and both pages now point to a single outside link: http://www.environmental-protection.org.uk/neighbourhood-nuisance/garden-bonfires/
So now at least there is a working link to a some garden bonfire content under nuisance. Thank you Peterborough City Council pollution and IT teams!
What the council’s website now points to is content on a charity website. The charity has published this leaflet, with the same content. What do you think? Is this robust enough?
Should the council have its bonfire policy? The leaflet suggests that there isn’t much point. If you want a good, informative source of information on bonfires this response to a FOI request takes a bit of beating. But the messages in that document don’t seem to me to get enough of an airing, nor do they seem to be falling on the waste burners’ ears.
Which could be partly why we have so many filthy fires burning in my area.
Note 1: In December 2010 the council had three, presumably fully qualified officers: http://www.peterborough.gov.uk/PCC/FOI/Docs/foi-10-0539-R.pdf