Sussex

Neighbours of fuel depot damaged in fire voice concerns

The co-director of a Sussex fuel depot badly damaged in a fire has tried to calm fears of neighbouring residents by insisting the site is safe.

Extensive damage from Friday's fire at the Four Seasons Fuel Limited's depot has so far prevented investigators from discovering its cause.

Nick Harris, co-director of the family business, in Coneyhurst, said he was "utterly devastated" by the fire.

But residents have voiced concerns that the site is still trading.

Although the bio-fuel part of the business is closed due to damage, the site is still being used to sell gas, firewood, charcoal, coal and stoves.

Carrie Court, from Coneyhurst, who was one of 30 residents evacuated, said: "Everyone has to run their business and no-one wants to condemn a business.

"However, health and safety being as tight as it is for most industries and companies you would question... whether it's a good combination [of items to sell at the depot].

"We have a family, a home and all our belongings here so it's quite shocking."

'Lost everything'

Mr Harris apologised to residents "for all the inconvenience" the fire caused and said it was unlikely the bio-fuel plant will ever open again.

"I've run out of tears, I must have cried a hundred times since," he said.

"I've lost everything - the bio-fuel plant, two tractors, four vehicles, my stable and my parents' stable, all my workshop machinery. I have to start my life again, but I'm not 25 years old any more.

"We're inspected regularly by the health and safety and Environment Agency.

"We haven't broken any health and safety regulations and every different area is segregated within the regulations."

And Mr Harris, who insisted the fire did not start at the bio-fuel plant, said support from most residents of Coneyhurst, a hamlet near Billingshurst, in Sussex, had been overwhelmingly positive.

"When we started to clean up we had dozens of local people who came down to help, bringing sandwiches and tea," he said.

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