Following intervention this morning by Michael Fabricant, an "Operational Stop" has been implemented to the igniting of the foot and mouth pyre being constructed at Hood Lane, Longdon, in Staffordshire. Angry and concerned residents had contacted Mr Fabricant due to the proximity of the fire to the village and other built-up areas. The "Stop" has been ordered by Robert Bently-Smith, Regional Director of Operations for MAFF at Stafford following a phone conversation between him and Michael Fabricant at around 10am this morning. The Operational Stop was announced at 10.40am.
"Local people had contacted me concerned that the smoke may be toxic and infectious", says Michael Fabricant. "I am very concerned about the effects the fire and smoke may have on people with breathing difficulties such as asthma and emphysema – there are many ex-miners in Armitage and Handsacre who might also be affected. This pyre is far too close to residential areas and I accept that there will be problems from the smell and the dirt caused by the smoke. I have now formally asked that the pyre be moved away from residential areas.
"However, I have been assured by Colonel Rob Weighill (Head of Army Operations assisting MAFF) that the smoke from the pyre will not be toxic. No chemicals are being used that can cause toxins to be emitted. He has further assured me that beasts from the infected farm and the adjoining farm only will be burned. There is no question of animals being brought in from other parts of Staffordshire or from other counties.
"After speaking to Chris Withnell of the Environment Agency, I understand that while burial of infected carcasses is preferable to burning, this is not possible at the present site due to the level of the water table and possible pollution to the water supply."
Mr Bently-Smith will now consult with the Chief Emergency Planning Officer of Lichfield District Council and will immediately inspect the Hood Lane site with the Army.
Michael Fabricant will be told later today whether the "Operational Stop" is permanent and the pyre will be moved. This decision lies in the hands of MAFF and the Government.
Michael will be visiting the Environment Agency HQ at Fradley on Thursday 12th April to see the operations of the Foot and Mouth Disease Control Centre for himself. If the pyre at Hood Lane is not moved, he will also be visiting the site with Environment Agency officials.