Robert Cooper, 78, of Hicks Leaze Farm, Chelworth was sentenced at Swindon Magistrates Court earlier this month (5 June) for operating a regulated waste facility without the necessary environmental permit at the farm between 9 April 2014 and 10 July 2014, according to the Environment Agency.
Mr Cooper, who had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing (15 May), was given a 12 week prison sentence, suspended for 2 years and ordered to perform 200 hours of unpaid work.
The court also ordered Mr Cooper to pay the Environment Agency’s full costs of £13,027.35.
Mr Cooper charged between £10 (green waste) and £40 per 20-tonne load for construction and demolition waste (C&D), the Agency reports. Officers calculated that Mr Cooper could have made more than £23,000 from his illegal activities.
The Environment Agency started investigations following complaints from members of the public about the burning of material in December 2013, and the number of lorries dumping waste on site from April 2014 onwards.
Agency officers visited the site and witnessed large quantities of waste including “4 large mounds of C&D” waste. Officers estimated a total of about 8,285 cubic metres of waste on site.
The court found that Mr Cooper’s actions were ‘deliberate’ and that the environmental harm was localised due to the presence of plasterboard, chemical drums and leachate seen on site.
The Agency noted that although Mr Cooper had 6 waste exemptions, none of these would have allowed him to carry out the types of activities seen by officers. The agency said: “Whenever waste is stored or treated, the operator is required to hold an environmental permit or register for an exemption, which is reserved for low-risk waste activities only.”
According to the Agency, officers observed the burning of waste with discarded empty containers labelled as “dangerous to the environment”. And, officers saw ‘what appeared to be leachate puddles’ in and around the burning waste and plasterboard, which “cannot be disposed of to landfill with other biodegradable waste as it can produce toxic hydrogen sulphide gas.”
Steve Clare of the Environment Agency said: “It is very disappointing that Mr Cooper continued to allow the operation of an illegal site despite his previous convictions.
“The net is closing in on people who think they can make easy money undercutting legitimate waste businesses by putting the local environment at risk.”
Mr Clare added: “In cases like this where individuals consistently operate illegally, we have absolutely no hesitation in prosecuting them, as we want to make sure that waste crime doesn’t pay.
“This extends to landowners, and their agents, who fail to take steps to prevent such offences once they are made aware of them.”