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Girl arrested on suspicion of arson following Westwood industrial unit fire released without charge

A 13-year-old old girl arrested on suspicion of arson following a fire which ravaged an industrial unit for 25 days has been released without charge.

Three 12-year-olds - a boy and two girls - also arrested in connection with the incident on Westwood Industrial Estate near Margate remain under police investigation.

The site, in Continental Approach, has not been touched more than two months after the blaze was put out, with huge mountains of charred waste remaining at the abandoned warehouse.

Huge plumes of smoke could be seen for miles. Picture: Dave Larkins (5859824)
Huge plumes of smoke could be seen for miles. Picture: Dave Larkins (5859824)

The unsightly mounds - a legacy of the fierce blaze, which burned for weeks - have been branded “absolutely disgusting” by neighbouring businesses in Continental Approach.

Crews doused the flames for 25 days as thousands of bales of illegally-stored rubbish continued to reignite after the fire started on September 15.

At its height, 80 firefighters were tackling the blaze, and huge plumes of smoke could be seen as far away as Sandwich.

Fire crews were eventually stood down on October 10, but work on clearing the blackened debris has yet to start almost nine weeks on.

Dave Barrett, the manager of neighbouring net specialists South East Netting, has branded the inaction “absolutely disgusting”.

He says the state of the site is putting off customers and denting trade.

"The waste has just sat there and business has been quiet - people don't want to come round here," he said.

"They often think we're closed because of it.

Fire aftermath at the Westwood industrial unit (5849222)
Fire aftermath at the Westwood industrial unit (5849222)

"The fire started on the Saturday and I came in to work on the Monday, and it was awful.

"The smoke was so thick I couldn't even see the unit opposite us.

"I went to have a look at the unit, and the waste was packed in unbelievably high - it was rammed.

"It must have been stacked in there with a forklift or something.

"The way it has been left is absolutely disgusting.”

Two days after fire crews ended their operation, a notice was pinned to a fence at the site, signed off by Thanet District Council’s head of asset management.

It ordered the owners of the building - a company based in the Virgin Islands called Conservation Property Holdings – to secure the site to stop unauthorised entry.

The firm has said previously it leased the building to an operator, unaware as many as 16,000 bales of waste tightly packed in plastic were being illegally stored inside.

Devon-based D W Land is listed as the business rates payer for the site.

In May it failed to comply with an Environment Agency (EA) notice to clear the rubbish from the building.

D W Land is listed on Companies House as a firm which buys and sells real estate.

The EA says an investigation is ongoing and regular site inspections have been carried out.

A spokesman said: “We are pursuing those responsible to ensure the waste is removed.

"It is the operator’s responsibility, and then the landowner's, to clear up the site. Our investigation continues."

Mr Barrett has called for swift action to resolve the issue, but is not hopeful.

"A few years ago I questioned the council on why our business rates are so high and they said it was because of the privilege of having a business in Margate," he said.

"Funnily enough, the same day there was a story about the worst high street in the country being Margate.

"And now this has happened - it is just so poor."

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