The regulator explained that Ms Gurjit Athwa, director of Keep Green Ltd in Barking was charged after “refusing entry to her premises by two Environment Agency officers unless they handed over thousand of pounds in bogus fees”.
She was charged under regulation 34(2) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016. This regulation mandates the Environment Agency to conduct periodic inspections of regulated facilities to ensure compliance with permits and was sentenced in absentia after she failed to attend her court hearing.
Barkingside Magistrates court heard that in February last year, an officer visited Keep Green located on Atcost Road to ensure it remained compliant with the environmental permit conditions for waste treatment and pollution control after having expressed concern over the volume of waste stored at the site since the last inspection six months prior.
However, the Agency said that Ms Athwal obstructed an officer from entering the premises. The Environment agency reported that Ms Athwal insisted on receiving £500 and insurance documents before allowing the officer access.
Despite the officer’s attempts to explain the purpose of the visit and present her authorisation card detailing her regulatory powers, Ms Athwal remained unresponsive and declined to acknowledge the card, the regulator stated.
Ms Athwal had subsequently made several “unverified accusations” in written form, alleging that the officer had misused her authority and falsely claimed denial of access to the site.
Despite a request from the Environment Agency to provide detailed follow-up on these allegations, Ms Athwal failed to do so.
The Agency said that the court heard that two months later, in April, the officer returned to Atcost Road this time accompanied by a colleague. According the Environment Agency Ms Athwal inspected the officers’ identification cards and took notes but once again refused them entry, insisting on payment and purportedly recording them on her mobile phone.
Barry Russell, environment manager for the Environment Agency in north and east London, said: “One of the most direct ways the Environment Agency can ensure companies like Keep Green operate without harming the environment is through inspecting waste sites and other commercial operations.
“Ms Athwal intentionally obstructed Environment Agency staff carrying out their work to keep communities safe. Her £3,000 fine will hopefully show her and others that her actions were unacceptable. My officers must be able to inspect permitted sites.
“Our investigation into how the waste operation is run at Atcost Road continues, although the permit to treat waste there is now held by a third party.”