A Gateshead man has been fined and ordered to pay thousands of pounds in compensation after he illegally stored waste at a site and then abandoned it.
John James Armstrong, 52, of Park Lane, Winlaton Mill, appeared at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on Friday 7 April.
He pleaded guilty to one offence of operating a waste site without a permit.
He was fined £1,000, ordered to pay compensation of £7,069.49 to the landowner to cover the costs they paid to clear the site, and £1,591.26 costs.
Armstrong was Director of Canterhall Builders Limited, a construction company which dissolved on 23 May 2016.
Prosecuting on behalf of the Environment Agency, Simon Crowder told the court that on 20 April, 2016, two Environment Agency officers attended the unit at Unit 1 Felling Business Centre, Green Lane.
They saw the site was covered in construction waste, including bricks, broken concrete, wood, plaster board, insulations, pallets, old kitchen units, benches and electrical waste. There was also a skip full of building waste.
Enquiries revealed that Canterhall were tenants at the site but had abandoned it earlier in the month.
On 16 May a letter requesting removal of the waste was given to the landowner.
On 23 May Environment Agency officers traced the defendant to a site in Swalwell, where he was given a letter inviting him to be interviewed.
Two days later the site at Felling was cleared by the landowners, at a total cost to them of more than £7,000.
The defendant has no previous convictions and was co-operative during the investigation.
During an interview on 2 June he said that if it was not cost effective to hire a skip to remove waste from carrying out construction work, then he would instead transport the waste back to the unit. When there was enough waste at the unit he would then order a skip to have it removed.
He said in January 2016 more and more waste was deposited at the unit and due to financial problems he could not afford skips to get the waste removed. He said he left the unit on 10 April and had made no attempts to clear the waste.
He added he was unaware of the need for an environmental permit or registered exemptions.
The Environment Agency’s Paul Whitehill said:
We take waste crime very seriously. It can cause serious pollution to the environment, put communities at risk and undermine local businesses.
The defended flouted the law for financial gain – he cut costs by not hiring skips at the sites where work was taking place to ensure disposal of the waste.
He also avoided the cost of an environmental permit and annual subsistence fees. Illegal waste activities that avoid regulatory controls don’t have the appropriate infrastructure to protect the environment, and can have a detrimental impact on local communities.
The sentence follows calls from the Environment Agency warning landowners about criminals looking to profit by dumping waste illegally on their land.
Landowners can often find their property filled with waste and abandoned by tenants, leaving owners with an expensive clean-up bill. The Environment Agency is cracking down on waste crime and taking tough action to deal with this behaviour.
This ruling demonstrates that people can be made to pay for the cost of clearing the mess they leave behind.
Information and advice about environmental permits can be found on the Environment Agency website. To report illegal waste activity contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.