'Waste village' blamed for rats at Bristol Wholesale Fruit Centre market
THE chairman of Bristol Wholesale Fruit Centre has blamed the city council for creating a "waste village" around the market that led to a massive invasion of rats.
Robert Smith says councillors ignored vigorous objections to waste stations being allowed on land bordering the site in Albert Crescent, St Philip's, which supplies fresh fruit and vegetables to 7.5 million people across the South West and Wales.
Mr Smith says last week their "worst fears were realised" when a huge number of rats hit the market and says a repeat occurrence could jeopardise livelihoods.
Waste firms May Gurney, SITA UK, Abacus and McCarthy have all opened plants in the immediate vicinity of the market, which has traded on the site since 1968. Mr Smith says the council must now take decisive action to move the waste stations to a more appropriate location.
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A council spokesman said it was believed the infestation had been caused by SITA UK closing their site, and rats having to find food from an alternative source, as well as unseasonably mild weather conditions.
He underlined the importance of the market and said they were working hard with SITA UK to ensure the problem was addressed as efficiently as possible.
But Mr Smith said the council's actions have threatened the long term viability of the site.
He told The Post: "Clearly, as a fresh food business, it is essential that we operate in a clean and well-protected environment and so it is with a growing sense of frustration and dismay that we have witnessed the growth of what is effectively a 'waste village' in our neighbourhood. The impact of this on the Fruit Centre has been highly prejudicial, as in spite of no fewer than 30 objections and complaints to various parties, including Members of Parliament, councillors and government agencies, our concerns over the levels of noise, dust, deeply unpleasant odours, volume of traffic and rodent activity generated by these sites have remained un-addressed.
"It would appear to the businesses who operate from the Fruit Centre that the city council, in implementing their joint waste strategy, have ignored the threat to the long-term viability of the Fruit Centre; the locating of a number of waste recycling businesses in the very heart of the city, within close proximity to one of the city's largest infant schools, as well as the largest fresh produce operation in the region, has appeared as utter folly to those affected.
"Last week we have seen our worst fears realised in the form of what can only be described as a massive invasion of rats from a neighbouring waste site.
"Thankfully our prompt and concerted action over the past few days has served to greatly reduce the potential impact of this but we live in nervous anticipation of the next event.
"A repeat occurrence of what we have just witnessed would serve to further jeopardise the livelihoods of those involved in all aspects of our local fresh produce industry as well as creating chaos in our regional food supply chain.
"Is it not time for the city council to take decisive and long overdue action to move the city's waste recycling to a more appropriate location?"
Darren Gaulton, managing director of Charles Saunders Limited, the fresh and frozen fish market which operates nearby, has not experienced the problem with rodents but would like to see the waste stations moved.
His concerns relate to safety and says debris often falls from the lorries which drive near a nursery.
He said: "The biggest problem we have is the danger of rocks falling off skips on the road. There is a nursery up the road and a lot of mothers and children use the road. You wonder if someone needs to get hurt for the council to take it seriously.
"It causes a massive amount of commercial traffic along the road which makes congestion quite bad.
"It is certainly not ideal. They should be in Avonmouth which is an industrial area with not many residents."
A council spokesman said: "St Philip's wholesale fruit market is very important both for Bristol and the south west as a whole; we take its role very seriously.
"Our environmental health and pest control services are working with the market operators and with SITA UK to tackle the rat infestation which has developed.
"The unseasonably mild weather conditions and the closure of SITA UK's waste transfer station has caused rat numbers in the area to increase.
"Both the council and SITA UK are working hard to tackle this problem by increasing the number of bait boxes within the area and pest control contractors are visiting the site every other day to monitor the situation.
"No new planning applications for waste transfer stations have been approved since 1999 and the May Gurney sites are for the transfer of recyclables, such as glass, plastic and cans. All food waste coming on to site is tipped into a sealed container, which is then loaded on to lorries and taken to the site in Avonmouth."
Councillor Gus Hoyt, who is in charge of environment issues on mayor George Ferguson's cabinet, said he would oppose any new applications of the same kind.
He added that he wanted to work with the market to discuss how the council could help them grow and prosper, possibly serving a number of future satellite city food markets.
A spokeswoman for SITA UK said the company was working closely with the council and had recruited extra resources to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
"We have increased the number of bait boxes at the site and had pest control contractors visiting every other day," she said.
David McGill, contract director for May Gurney, said: "Along with all the other waste contractors in the area, environmental health visited our site last week.
"They reported that they had no concerns with how May Gurney is running its facility in Albert Road and that we are doing everything we can to discourage rats."
Alex Marland, a director at McCarthy Waste Management, said the company dealt with construction and demolition waste that did not attract rodents.
The Post attempted to contact Abacus but did not receive a response.