A HUGE fire at a waste recycling plant is likely to cause days of disruption in Horwich.

It is the fourth large fire at Armstrong Environmental Services in Chorley New Road, Horwich, in the past two years.

At the height of the latest blaze, which started at 2am yesterday, 60 firefighters battled to bring it under control.

It broke out in a storage building and involved several hundred tonnes of plastic.

The incident forced the closure of Chorley New Road in both directions for several hours yesterday.

The fire service said it could be at the site for a week. Last night, four crews and an aerial appliance were still at the scene.

At this stage a cause of the blaze is not known and an investigation is under way.

The Bolton News made repeated calls to Armstrong yesterday but the company declined to comment.

Residents living near the site expressed fear for their health and safety following the latest blaze.

Bolton West MP Julie Hilling said the situation “should not be allowed to continue” and was to meet with the Environment Agency today to reflect the local strength of feeling about the company.

There was a fire at the site less than three weeks ago when 10 tonnes of rotting waste burned for hours overnight after overheating and igniting.

In June last year, the company was targeted by arsonists and up to 300 tonnes of waste caught fire and 60 firefighters tackled the blaze.

And in July, 2008, a huge woodstack caught fire and caused a week of disruption including road and school closures, and houses were left without water.

The company was later prosecuted because the stack was too high.

But magistrates were astonished to learn they were only allowed to impose a maximum fine of £500.

Last night Ms Hilling said: “I am extremely concerned following this latest incident at Armstrong’s.

“Clearly this situation should not be allowed to continue. I have contacted both the local authority and the Environment Agency in the past few months to highlight residents’ concerns.

“I am due to meet officials from the Environment Agency in relation to these ongoing issues and I will make sure that the strength of feeling locally is reflected.”

Horwich North East ward councillor Barbara Ronson added: “There have been so many fires at the site and it is getting beyond a joke.

“The quality of life for people in Horwich has been compromised yet again.”

Lisa Matthews, aged 41, who has lived opposite the site for three years, said: “I am getting really fed up of these fires and to be honest it is not even a surprise any more.

“We are concerned for our safety. The big fire two years ago had a huge impact on us because we didn’t have any water, which made life difficult.

“I would be very interested to find out who is paying for this. If it was caused through negligence, I don’t think we should be paying for it through our council tax.”

Another resident added: “There is only so much you can take — the place is a constant nuisance.

“All the smoke will bring dust and mess. It is horrendous.”

John Price, chairman of the Blackrod and Horwich Environmental Action Group, said: “This just beggars belief. How much of this can people put up with? I have been up to Middlebrook and the smell was terrible. I am concerned about what is in that smoke and how it might be affecting people’s health.”

The fire is not expected to affect children returning to school, as the primary schools closest to the site go back next week.

Environment Agency environment officer John McCarthy said: “Environment officers have been on site to monitor potential impacts of the fire on the environment. The majority of fire water was being contained and reused on site.

“The Agency will be monitoring the local watercourses over the next few days to check for any impact from the fire water run-off and we will await the outcome of the fire service’s investigation into how the fire started prior to determine what our regulatory response will be.”