An unlicensed skip hire was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £2,400 costs by magistrates in Colchester last Wednesday.

The previous week Reading magistrates handed down fines and costs totalling more than £32,000 to an illegal skip yard.

The hefty fine in Essex was imposed on McFletch Waste Management Ltd of Friars Street, Sudbury, for operating on a site at Middleton Hall Farm, near Sudbury.

In Reading it was Reynolds Excavations Ltd, which operates a yard in the town’s Wigmore Lane that was fined.

The illegal McFletch site first came to the attention of the Environment Agency in January last year when officers received information that controlled waste was being stored on the site.

A large soil and screening operation was going on and there was waste timber in a pile.

A letter was sent pointing out to the company that it was illegal to keep, treat or dispose of waste without a waste management licence.

McFletch said the wood had not been deposited by them and they did not regard the soils and aggregates as waste and intended to clear the site before the end of March.

Agency officers sent a follow-up letter reiterating that waste operations must stop as the deposited soil was a controlled waste and its treatment needed a licence.

But despite the warnings the waste operation was still going on nine months later and among 11 full skips of waste found at the site was a piece of asbestos piping and a scrapped television set.

Controlled waste was also being burnt at the site.

After the hearing the EA’s Mike Webley, team leader for the investigation, said: “This prosecution shows that the agency will take a firm line with illegal waste operations.

“It is not acceptable to store and sort waste without the benefit of a waste management licence and it is never acceptable to burn waste.

“These operations were causing localised air pollution and had the potential to contaminate both land and water.

“The discovery of asbestos on the site also raised health and safety issues which could have impacted on the site operators and local residents.

“It should be remembered that regulation is aimed not only at the potential for harm to the environment but also to the effective regulation of the waste industry.

“It is important that there is a level playing field for all involved in the waste industry and by operating without a licence, McFletch would be able to undercut legal waste operators.”

A Reading based skip yard which was running an illegal waste management facility was ordered to pay more than £32,000 in fines and costs by Reading Magistrates Court on 17 November after being prosecuted by the Environment Agency.

In Reading Reynolds Excavations was fined a total of £26,000 with £1,016 costs after pleading guilty to six charges involving the illegal operation of a waste transfer station.

Activities on site included the keeping, sorting and disposal of waste by burning without a waste management licence.

The court also fined the company for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent the escape of waste and failing to ensure that proper and adequate waste transfer notes were completed.

The company secretary, Richard Reynolds, also pleaded guilty to six waste offences and was fined £4,000 for one charge and received five conditional discharges for three years in relation to the other five offences.

He was also ordered to pay a further £1,016 in costs.

The prosecution was brought after the Environment Agency received a number of complaints about smoke coming from the yard.

Environment officers investigating the site on 4 June 2004 discovered clear evidence that waste including plastics, paint, engine oil, metals and wood had been deposited, stored and sorted at the yard without a waste management licence.

After further complaints had been received, officers returned the next day to the yard and saw waste being burnt.

During an interview with Mr Reynolds he admitted running a waste transfer site and that only timber was burnt at the site, despite clear evidence to the contrary.

Environment Agency officers were called back to the scene three months later following further reports of smoke and burning.

Mr Reynolds was again interviewed but he said that he had been burning “clean wood” again contrary to the officer’s observations that other waste including bricks, tiles, pain tins, wood, ceramics, metal and items of wood furniture – was being burnt.

Investigating officer Steve Clare said: “This case illustrates our commitment to tackling sites that operate illegally without a waste management licence.

“Action will be taken against those company officers who allow their companies to carry out such activities in the knowledge that a waste management licence is required, particularly where they have previously received advice or warnings.

“With the amendments to the duty of care provisions which came into force on 21 November, this case should also serve as a timely reminder to those individuals who are required to produce a waste transfer note that it contains all the information required to comply with the law and not merely pay lip service to its requirements.”

Mr Reynolds’ yard has now been granted a waste management licence and future waste activities will be strictly regulated.

By Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie