Could this finally be the end of Norfolk's notorious tyre mountain following its 20-year saga?
PUBLISHED: 16:01 05 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:09 06 December 2018
It was once described by experts as the county’s most potentially dangerous fire hazard.
But now the end could be in sight for one of Norfolk’s biggest and longest running blights - Tattersett’s notorious tyre mountain near Fakenham.
The saga began two decades ago when a licence was granted by Environment Agency for tyre collection business at Tattersett Business Park in 1998.
But by 2000 more than a million car and lorry tyres were believed to be on the site with claims that more were arriving daily by the lorry-load.
Soon after that, a small fire broke out which sparked fears over the detrimental and irreversible damage which could be caused to the environment if a blaze on a larger scale happened.
The potential dangers.
The main concern was over acrid smoke, which could have been potentially noxious and poisonous, from burning rubber drifting across nearby homes and countryside.
Here is an aerial view of the tyre mountain blight.
But now there are fresh hopes for the complete removal of the tyres after work began on ‘baling’ the estimated 6,000 to 10,000 tonnes of abandoned rubber - which could mean there are as many as one million tyres on the site.
When businessman Roger Gawn took over as owner of the Tattersett Business Park in April 2009, he vowed to finally bring to an end the county’s infamous tyre mountain.
At the time, he pledged to immediately take action on the massive task and after seemingly endless debates, discussions, meetings and campaigns, Mr Gawn received planning permission to start shredding the tyres .
But those plans changed and it took nearly a further decade to sort but work is now finally underway.
Has the solution to the problem finally been found?
“I had to come up with a solution but it had not been at all easy,” Mr Gawn said. “I wanted to get this problem solved on a personal level because it is important.
“But a lot of this has taken an enormous amount of time to get permits and work through properly.”
Mr Gawn, who is also the owner of Melton Hall, in Melton Constable, near Holt, estimated that there was around 6,000 tonnes of tyres on the site but admitted that it could as much as 10,000 tonnes.
“Basically it works out at around 100 tyres per tonne,” he said. “So that means there could be anywhere between 600,000 tyres on that site, anywhere up to one million. No one really knows.
“What we originally wanted was to get in the business of shredding the tyres. We got planning for a tyre shredding facility but then the oil crisis hit around four to five years ago and the economics of tyre shredding stopped working. So we were back to square one. We then had to investigate other methodologies.”
The next important step - baling.
Eventually a planning application was submitted to Norfolk County Council for a baling facility and that was permitted by the Environment Agency.
The process of baling allows the tyres to be pressed through a 45-tonne pressure machine which pushes them together and compresses the tyres in bales before they are covered in high-tensile steel baling wire.
Each bale weighs around 25 tonnes and is then placed into a containers and sent abroad to reprocessing centres. The first bale has already been completed and shipped to India and others could be sent to other centres across the globe.
At the lower end of the estimation, a total of 240 containers would need to be shipped before 6,000 tonnes were removed from the site.
Mr Gawn has written to Tattersett Parish Council and other councils to inform them of the latest developments.
He added: “This is a good solution.
“We get a certificate to satisfy the Environment Agency that [the bales] are being reprocessed.
“We’ve got lots of security [at the site], CCTV, fire protection, all the things to do the job properly.
“This also makes us a permanent facility in the whole of north Norfolk so this means there should be no problem in the county with unwanted tyres.”
Before Mr Gawn took over the site, the tyre mountain became the property of French bank Société Générale.
A spokesperson for North Norfolk District Council said: “This processing will allow the owner to comply with our planning notice to remove the tyres, which is positive news and is welcomed by North Norfolk District Council.”
So is this finally good news for the “environmental time-bomb”?
It is a problem which has blighted north Norfolk for decades and an issue which predates Norman Lamb’s time as a member of parliament.
Now Mr Lamb has branded the work being done to rid Tattersett of its tyre mountain “good news”.
The North Norfolk MP first spoke about the issue back in the early 2000s.
And in 2009 he described the site as an “environmental time-bomb”, claiming it ran the risk of air, ground and water pollution.
But today he praised the efforts of those involved in beginning the removal of the eyesore.
“It’s just shocking that after 20 years this problem has been here and that is an extraordinary situation when you have a significant environmental hazard of that size,” he said.
“Thankfully nothing has happened in this period but it could have done. Fakenham is nearby and other communities which could have been affected by this.”
Mr Lamb also questioned if the Environment Agency needed “more powers” to deal with these kind of issues.
“I hope that now it can be cleared within a good timescale.”