Lancaster City Council faces a financial dilemma as it struggles with the aftermath of a massive fire at a former skip hire site. With potential costs of demolition work reaching £900,000, the council is exploring options to address the aftermath of the fire that consumed thousands of tonnes of waste.

17 January 2024

In a recent development, Lancaster City Council finds itself at the forefront of a financial challenge following a substantial fire that erupted at a former skip hire site on Port Royal Avenue. The fire, which persisted for three weeks before being extinguished on the 3rd December, has left the city council contemplating the potential financial burden of addressing the aftermath.

Last month, Lancaster City Council allocated funds in the amount of £900,000 to expedite the containment and resolution of the fire's aftermath. This decision will be deliberated by councillors this week, highlighting the gravity of the situation and the financial implications involved.

Connected to the former Supaskips waste business and THINK Skips Ltd, the site's association with private ownership and administration raises questions about responsibility for the substantial demolition costs. The city council's chief executive, Mark Davies, swiftly took decisive action in December, holding meetings with councillors and officers to allocate funds urgently.

A council report reveals that, exercising his authority, Davies authorised immediate action to protect public safety and property. On the 6th December, a decision was made to collaborate with contractors for the demolition of ancillary buildings, with costs capped at £262,000. Subsequently, on the 15th December, a second urgent decision was taken to mitigate the "significant economic, social, and environmental impact" of the fire, allowing the use of a demolition contractor with an additional fee of up to £650,000.

However, uncertainty looms over the responsibility for meeting these costs. A separate report regarding the second urgent decision asserts, "Lancaster City Council does not have any direct responsibility for the site, which is privately owned. The responsibility for this rests with the owners, who are currently in administration."

Without adequate funding for clearance work, the council report warns of a potential prolonged defensive firefighting approach, with the fire persisting for months and the risk of further fires. The full cost of the demolition work is estimated to be around £900,000, prompting the council to prioritise exploring all avenues to recover these costs.

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