£1.2m in assets seized from rogue landfill firm

A landfill operator has been forced to hand over nearly £1.2m of assets and pay more than £86,000 in fines and costs after illegally burying large amounts of waste.

John Craxford, 67, and his firm John Craxford Plant Hire Ltd pleaded guilty to a string of offences after a major investigation by the Environment Agency dubbed Operation Cleansweep.

It is the largest seizure of assets carried out in England following an environmental conviction.

The investigation began after the Environment Agency became suspicious about the way the Yannon Lane landfill site at Kingskerswell, near Newton Abbot, in Devon, was being run.

It revealed that company director Craxford, of Foredown Lane, Kingskerswell, and his firm were responsible for burying huge amounts of unsuitable waste since at least March 2003.

The site’s permit only allowed it to take inert materials such as soil and stone, but waste such as wood, plastics, cardboard, electrical goods and household waste were also being buried there.

Surveillance also revealed that the site’s waste transfer station exceeded the limit of waste it was allowed to accept.

Only 4,999 tonnes of mixed waste should have taken there each year, but in January 2007 alone it accepted more than 5,000 cubic yards of mixed waste, which earned the company £47,000.

Other offences included making false statements in an application for a Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit and keeping controlled waste on land at Yannon Lane in a manner likely to cause pollution.

“The scale of illegal tipping at this site is the worst I have encountered,” said Adrian Evans from the Environment Agency’s Environmental Crime Team.

“Our investigation revealed a catalogue of offences, committed over a period of several years.”

Judge Philip Wassall at Exeter Crown Court ordered the confiscation of £1,194,638 of assets from Craxford and his company to match the financial gains they are believed to have made as a result of the illegal activities.

He also fined the firm £60,000 and ordered it to pay £18,855 in costs. Craxford was given a three-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £8,081 in costs.

Kate Martin

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