Slick organised criminals are targeting ‘isolated’ landowners in order to dump huge quantities of illegal waste, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has warned.
The association argued that many criminal ringleaders have ‘a very legitimate front’ – meaning it is difficult to tell whether operators are genuine.
It follows a notice from the Environment Agency this week urging landowners to be vigilant when entering contracts with tenants, after more than 100,000 tonnes of illegal waste had to be removed from sites in Lincolnshire.
Around 100,000 tonnes of tyres had to be removed from land at Holme Farm near Boston, which had been leased to operators who abandoned the site.
The land in turn was sold, with the responsibility and cost of disposing the tyres falling to the new owner. The Environment Agency got involved to advise and ensure the tyres’ disposal was in accordance with regulations.
The Agency said it worked with the Fire Service and the previous landowner to ensure the tyre bales were stored safely, establishing measures such as fire breaks, available water provision and emergency contacts to minimise the risk of fire and potential harm to the environment.
At a similar site near Brigg, 3,000 cubic metres of plastic bales were stored on a forged permit, resulting in a fly infestation affecting residents and businesses nearby.
However, in this case the Environment Agency worked with the site operator to encourage him ‘to deal with the situation’ – despite the company having previously entered liquidation after being prosecuted. The operator took personal responsibility for the waste and cleared the land.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “Illegal waste left can cost thousands of pounds to be removed and it’s important that landowners check before signing a contract with businesses or individuals to ensure the contract complies with regulations.
“We welcome the successful resolution to these long standing issues at both sites, dealing with difficult waste types. We also welcome the success of partnership work to make sure that sites like these are kept within the regulation and prevent harm to the environment.”
The Environment Agency has repeatedly warned landowners not to be caught out by illegal waste dumping in recent years, and to take their responsibilities regarding their tenants’ activities seriously.
'These are usually slick operations, with the ringleaders seemingly having a very legitimate front.'
But, commenting on the issue, CLA said that many landowners are increasingly faced with operators who appear to hold all the relevant permits.
Ben Underwood, CLA east regional director, said: “Organised groups are making concerted efforts to target landowners and farmers with land in extremely isolated areas, well shielded from public highways, to store huge quantities of waste – often plastics and wood – on a temporary basis.
“These are usually slick operations, with the ringleaders seemingly having a very legitimate front. They appear to have all relevant permits and offer cash to store the waste. However, once the site is full they disappear leaving landowners with a rather large pile of waste – for which they believed there was licence – to dispose of at their own expense.”
He added: “If you are approached by a waste operator it is essential to check with the Environment Agency and ensure they have the correct permits.”