VIDEO: Trago Mills fined thousands for ‘reckless’ waste offences

Trago Mills, one of the West Country's leading retail businesses, has been ordered to pay almost £200,000 in fines and costs for illegally dumping and burning waste at two of its out-of-town shopping complexes.

In the case, brought by the Environment Agency, several thousand tonnes of mixed waste including asbestos was disposed of at Trago Mills stores and leisure parks near Newton Abbot and Liskeard.

Materials found included soil, stone, plastic, electrical goods, plumbing pipes, broken paving, tiles, concrete, pots of paints and chemicals, and broken dustbins.

A larger area of landfill, containing an estimated 6,200 tonnes of waste, including 200 sheets of asbestos, was found on an adjoining part of one of the sites. Materials were also disposed of by burning in a large pit.

In June 2009, video footage taken from a helicopter showed a huge and previously unknown stockpile of waste in a wooded valley near the River Fowey on land belonging to Trago Mills.

The stockpile contained substantial amounts of wood including pallets and furniture, timber, tree cuttings, rubble and cardboard packaging. The area was 1km from the main Trago Mills store at Liskeard and was out of sight of the public.

Trago Mills had an annual turnover of £85m in 2008 and made a pre-tax profit of £4m. The company has worked with the Environment Agency to remove the illegally dumped waste. It employed extra staff to help recover and sort the waste and claims the clean-up operation has cost the business almost £500,000.

Environment Agency spokesperson Dave Brogden said: “From our investigations it was clear these illegal operations had taken place over a lengthy period of time and involved thousands of tonnes of waste, The company had recycling schemes in place, but avoided costs by illegal dumping.”

The clean-up costs at the Newton Abbot site had been high because the mixed wastes had to be segregated and any contaminated material disposed of separately. The operation took several months. There was no system for recycling wood from the Liskeard site after 2005. Instead of paying for skip hire, waste timber generated over a 12-month period was burnt on a huge bonfire.

Trago Mills (South Devon) Ltd and Charles Robertson (Developments) Ltd were fined a total of £185,000 after pleading guilty to a five offences of illegally depositing and disposing of waste at sites near Newton Abbot and Liskeard. They were also ordered to pay £14,558 costs and ordered to pay £30 victim surcharge.

The court imposed fines of £37,000 for each of the five offences, two of which related to the illegal disposal of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health. All five offences breached Section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Maxine Perella

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