28 October 2016 by Tom Goulding

Averies brothers sentenced following ‘disastrous’ fire

Two brothers who served as directors of Wiltshire waste company Averies Recycling were sentenced at Swindon Crown Court yesterday (27 October) after pleading guilty to breaching environmental regulations.

Lee and David Averies had pleaded guilty to breaching the Environmental Protection Act at Swindon Skips Ltd at Cheney Manor, and Averies Recycling Swindon Ltd, in Marshgate, Swindon.

Lee Averies was also convicted of environmental regulation breaches at Calne Aggregate Holdings Ltd, of which he was director. A further guilty plea has been entered on behalf of the company which will be sentenced in 2017.

The guilty pleas for all three sites, entered in September, relate to the treatment, storage and disposal of waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health (see letsrecycle.com story).

Lee Averies was handed a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years and received a Criminal Behaviour Order banning him from operating in the waste industry for five years.

His brother, David, was meanwhile fined £4,208 and ordered to pay costs of £50,000. He has also been disqualified from being a director of a company for three years.

Fires

The charges cover the period when two large fires broke out at the Averies sites in Brindley Close and Marshgate in November 2013 and July 2014 respectively.

The fire in 2013 at Brindley Close burned for a week and smouldered for some time after – causing disruption to the local community, businesses and delays on the nearby main railway line to Cheltenham.

An even larger fire at the Marshgate site involved 1,000 tonnes of general and building waste and continued to burn for around two months, with the subsequent clear-up believed to have cost in the region of £500,000.

An aerial view of the Marshgate site, where a waste fire burnt for two months causing disruption

An aerial view of the Marshgate site, where a waste fire burnt for two months

Due to the severity of the fire, the Environment Agency stepped in with the help of partner agencies to remove the waste. The brothers were then offered the use of a temporary site under a licence from Swindon borough council, which they declined.

The Agency also revoked environmental permits for the Marshgate site following the fire. Averies Recycling went into voluntary administration in December 2014, and when into liquidation in July the following year.

The procedure for revoking the permit at the site operated by Calne Aggregates Holding Limited is also underway.

Magistrates

Appearing at Swindon Magistrates’ Court in August 2015, the brothers had previously entered a not guilty plea when charged with the waste offences brought by the Environment Agency.

The case was subsequently moved to Swindon Crown Court, where the pair have been prosecuted.

In sentencing, Sir John Royce took into consideration Lee Averies’ previous convictions in 2009 and 2013, as well as the cost of clearing the Swindon site to the taxpayer.

He remarked that David Averies must have known the importance of ensuring compliance following the prosecution before Bristol Crown and entering into the agreement with the Environment Agency.

The Environment Agency has worked hard to minimise the disastrous legacy the Averies brothers have left behind.


Colin Chiverton, Area Environment manager
Environment Agency

‘Catastrophic’

 Commenting on the case, Colin Chiverton, Area Environment Manager for the Environment Agency, said Averies had earned “huge sums of money” by importing waste onto both sites and stockpiling to save on disposal costs.

He said: “The Environment Agency has worked hard to minimise the disastrous legacy the Averies brothers have left behind. If we and other incident responders had not taken the action we did then the impact on people, the environment and local infrastructure could have been catastrophic.”

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