Riddle of the bogus letter attacking ‘illegal’ St Albans waste site

Hixberry Lane

Hixberry Lane - Credit: Archant

Mystery surrounds the authorship of a letter purporting to be from residents of a St Albans road complaining about the illegal operation of a waste site nearby.

The unsigned letter, which was sent to the county and district council, local councillors, the Environment Agency and this newspaper, claims that the illegal waste tip is being operated from a site off Hixberry Lane in St Albans.

The letter has been written on behalf of residents of Manston Way and claims that four weeks ago the peace of the neighbourhood was disturbed by the “crashing and bashing of a machine shedding wood and green waste” at the depot operated by council contractors John O’Conner on Hixberry Lane adjacent to the allotments, green open space and housing estates.

The letter goes on to suggest that the site is illegal in just about every way including having no Environment Agency site licence, permit or exemption, being within a few feet of a watercourse and less than the permitted distance from a concentration of housing..

The author of the letter adds: “We understand the council’s needs to cut costs but operating an illegal waste site is surely not necessary. The residents are the only people to suffer in this instance with pollution of the air, surrounding green spaces, streams and watercourses and noise pollution.”

But Matthew O’Conner, managing director of John O’Conner, said this week that the Environment Agency had visited the Hixberry Lane site last week and had no concerns. He said: “We have not been instructed or advised to change our procedures in any way.”

He also said that his company had spoken to residents of Manston Way and the letter did not appear to have come directly from them.

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Urging anyone with concerns about the site to contact the company at the depot, Mr O’Conner stressed: “We work very hard to maintain good relationships with residents particularly those who live near our depots. We do our very best to act responsibly and with respect for the needs of our neighbours”

Richard Shwe, the district council’s head of community services, said they were looking into the matter and also understood the Environment Agency had no concerns following their visit to the site.

Local district councillor, Chris Brazier, has visited the site and spoken to Manston Way residents. He said none of them had sent the letter and some had been into the John O’Conner depot to say that it hadn’t come from them.

He added: “There is nothing illegal going on there. They are using it for grass and mulching it for flower beds.”