The burning neighbourhood where residents are scared to peg their washing out

At a moment's notice, a corner of Great Harwood can change almost entirely.

Washing is hastily removed from lines, children are brought inside from their play. Windows and doors are jammed shut as quickly as possible.

What is usually a run-of-the-mill town a stone's throw from the M65 is transformed into something more akin to smog-filled streets of Mexico City than a leafy Lancashire.

A dense, choking cloud drifts its way across the south of the town. And there's nothing residents can do about it.

This week, one such cloud settled on the streets around Alan Ramsbottom Way. The council received widespread reports of 'burning' on Wednesday (April 24).

For many residents, it was far from unusual. They told LancsLive they had been dealing with smoke from a neighbouring waste firm for years.

Likewise, firefighters say they receive regular reports of waste being burned at Great Harwood Skip Hire. But bosses at Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service have admitted they have "limited powers" when commercial waste is being burned.


Earlier this week residents were advised to close all doors and windows after huge plumes of smoke emanated from the site. Social media was flooded with images and videos taken from Railway Terrace close to a large green space.

One resident, who regularly walks her dog along the path running adjacent to the railway line, said that black smoke coming from the site is an "almost daily occurrence".

"It's beyond a joke," she told LancsLive. "You daren't peg your washing out because the air just stinks all the time."

Fire bosses have said their powers are limited to prevent firms from burning waste
Fire bosses have said their powers are limited to prevent firms from burning waste -Credit:Jason Roberts/LancsLive

Yvonne, who has lived in Railway Terrace for around 30 years, says the problem has been "going on for years". "Nobody seems to do anything about it," she said.

"You can't put your washing out. There's a woman who lives round the corner who works for the council and she's been trying for years to get it sorted."

Unfortunately for residents, Lancashire Fire and Rescue say it is difficult to gain entry to the site unless there is life, or property in danger. Full access to extinguish flames is something they say they have managed only a handful of times over several years.

Now, the council, police, fire service and the Environment Agency are working together to "bring about any necessary action" following regular complaints from residents living nearby.

LancsLive spoke to a woman who lives in the property which forms part of the site and who owns the horse stables next door. She said that while the waste firm is "nothing to do with" her she was aware that the most recent fire was due to a vehicle being set alight.

"I wouldn't let anything like that happen all the time right next to all my horses because it wouldn't be good for them," she said. "I have nothing to do with the people who run that site though."

A dad-of-two who lives on Wellington Street said that at times he has ordered his children inside when the smoke has been at its worst. "You do worry about the impact on people's health," he said.

Residents living near to the waste firm say they are regularly engulfed in smoke
Residents living near to the waste firm say they are regularly engulfed in smoke -Credit:Jason Roberts/LancsLive

A spokesperson for Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service told LancsLive: "The Fire and Rescue Act gives fire authorities' powers to deal with incidents where there are lives or property at risk. On several occasions, we have been on to the site and extinguished fires.

"However, when a fire involves burning waste, our powers are limited, and they do not let us enter the site and put out the fire unless we think that life and property are in danger.

"We are aware and understand the frustration that residents feel, and we are working with Hyndburn Borough Council, Environment Agency, and Lancashire Constabulary to bring about any necessary action.

"To help us gather potential evidence, we are asking everyone impacted to report instances of burning or smoke that is a pollution concern, directly to Hyndburn Borough Council. People can do this through a simple online form and have the option to attach images and videos.

"If they believe the fire is a threat to property or life, we ask that people ring 999 immediately. We recognise the public's concern and will continue to work with our partner agencies to address this issue."

A Hyndburn Borough Council spokesperson said: "We are aware of reports of burning in Great Harwood. If you can smell or see smoke in the proximity, please keep your windows and doors closed.

"If smoke/a fire is causing a pollution concern, but there is not a threat to life or property, please report this directly to us at Hyndburn Borough Council via our online form. By using our reporting form, including attaching images or videos when possible, you can help us to bring about any necessary action.

"We will continue to work in partnership with Lancashire Fire and Rescue, The Environment Agency and Lancashire Constabulary to address concerns about the impact of burning."