Prime Biomass directors sentenced and fined

Two of Prime Biomass Ltd’s directors were sentenced in the Old Bailey last week for operating an illegal waste wood operation in Essex, the Environment Agency has noted. According to the Agency, 59-year-old Mehmet Mustafa of Highlands Road, Basildon, was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £30,000 in compensation to a victim who was left with abandoned wood waste. He was also ordered to pay £16,000 towards the prosecution costs.

The abandoned wood waste at Prime Biomass’s Essex site (picture: Environment Agency)

Forty-seven-year-old Finbar Francis Breslin, now of County Donegal, Republic of Ireland, was found guilty of causing Prime Biomass Ltd to operate a regulated facility without a permit. Described by Judge Bate as the operation’s “front man”, he received a conditional discharge for two years and a five-year director’s disqualification.

A third director was acquitted by a majority verdict.

Exemption

The hearing followed a five-week trial at the Old Bailey in 2018, where the three directors were found guilty of storing and treating waste wood in excess of the 500-tonne limit allowed by the waste exemption they had registered.

In January 2013 Mr Mustafa registered a T6 exemption allowing the company to process no more than 500 tonnes of waste wood in any seven-day period.

The Environment Agency says that when its officers visited in September 2013 Mr Breslin admitted that the site contained 1,200 tonnes of waste wood. It was agreed that the company would reduce the waste, but on subsequent visits the Agency says it found it had increased.

Mr Mustafa and Mr Breslin were interviewed under caution and the Agency says each director told its officers they believed the other was in charge.

By February 2014 Prime Biomass Ltd was in liquidation and the site was abandoned. The Agency says the waste wood remained there until late 2018 when the site and other surrounding land was sold for redevelopment.

“Their actions showed blatant disregard for local residents and businesses”

Ruth Shaw, Environment Agency

‘Blatant disregard’

Ruth Shaw, case officer from the Environment Agency, said: “We visited the site on numerous occasions, but the defendants continued to ignore our advice on how to comply with their exemption and run a site within the rules.

“Further visits to the site revealed an increase in illegal activity with even more waste on site, causing a serious fire risk and dust nuisance to the neighbouring community.”

She added: “Their actions showed blatant disregard for local residents and businesses and put the environment and local amenity at risk.”

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