Last month, a fire at the landfill site outside Dunbar caused serious concern in the local community.

Following the incident, I engaged with the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service, the local authority, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Valencia Waste Management, which operates the landfill site. Along with my East Lothian Council colleague Donna Collins, I raised concerns about the handling of the situation.

Last Monday, Councillor Collins and I raised concerns about the initial lack of a clear and prompt set of communications by the multi-agency group. For some reason, there was an initial reluctance to communicate safety advice to local residents after the fire was reported on Monday, August 28. I raised this failure to communicate in a timely manner with representatives from SEPA this week, and Cllr Collins and I will pursue this further.

Safety advice for residents, which included to close windows and remain indoors, was not issued until 30 hours after the fire was reported. In that time, changing wind direction resulted in Thurston Manor, Pinkerton and Thorntonloch being covered in smoke, which residents found difficulty breathing in.

There was obviously significant concern registered by those living in the community about whether the smoke was toxic – something which thankfully did not prove to be the case.

Following these concerns being raised with us, both I and Councillor Collins have pressed SEPA to better communicate safety advice and information to residents in order to alleviate any future concern, although responsibility for communication rests across agencies, including the NHS and the fire and rescue service in such circumstances.

I will continue to work with Councillor Collins, Valencia and East Lothian Council to ensure lessons are learned around how communications are managed with residents should there be any repeat of last week’s worrying fire.