All charges against Sundorne Products (Llanidloes) Ltd – also known as Potter Group – in relation to its site at Unit 41, Pembroke Dock have been dismissed at trial.
Potter Group faced ten charges relating to breaching its environmental permit through its storage of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) in a manner that was not in accordance with pest and odour management plans.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) – who issued the environmental permit – began investigating in 2015 after issues with flies and odours were reported by local residents and managers at the nearby South Pembrokeshire Hospital.
But on 6 November District Judge James found the Welsh waste management company not guilty on all charges.
James Potter, managing director of Potter Group, said: “We are very pleased with the outcome of this case. The Potter Group are a family run recycling business which has always sought to achieve the highest standards and worked with NRW and other regulators.”
“I am pleased that these verdicts are a vindication of the tireless and diligent work of our committed staff in West Wales.”
After the court heard two days of evidence, NRW chose to offer no further evidence in the case as it felt a guilty verdict was unlikely.
Gavin Bown, operations manager for NRW, explained: “During this case we determined that a guilty verdict would be unlikely for the more serious charges and so we decided not to present all of our evidence at the trial to avoid unnecessary legal fees.
“These fees would have come at a significant cost to the public purse in the likely event the company were not convicted on these charges.”
“Best available technology”
Issues have been experienced at the Pembroke Dock site since August 2015 when Potters said they were experiencing “teething problems” at the site which had resulted in the flies and odours. NRW served an enforcement notice in August 2016, followed by a partial suspension of the environmental permit in April 2017. (see Letsrecycle.com story)
Reflecting on the history of the site, Mr Potter said: “The Unit 41 operation was taken on by Potter Group after the original permit had been granted by NRW to Pembrokeshire County Council.
“In good faith, all stakeholders thought that it would be an excellent scheme to serve the communities of West Wales and fulfil Welsh Government targets on recycling.”
He added: “The company put in place the best available technology to ensure it was a well-run facility, equalling the best in the business and exceeding the standards in the industry Code of Practice. For two years, the company did everything it could to make the scheme work.
“The company put in place the best available technology to ensure it was a well-run facility.”
Environmental solicitor, Jenny Watts of Watts Legal, acted on behalf of Potters in the case. She told letsrecycle.com that the site had complied with its permit and was “a very well managed facility”.
She added: “It is regretful that NRW chose to prosecute Potters some 18 months after the site operations had effectively ceased.
“Potters had worked strenuously with NRW to resolve the concerns which were alleged, but in the end the NRW initiated permit variation preventing RDF storage between April – October each year had the impact of stopping the operation, which was a great loss to local authorities and the Welsh Governments ambitions to achieve zero waste to landfill.”