Press release

Second hand store owner burned waste illegally in County Durham

A second hand shop owner pleads guilty to illegally burning waste following Environment Agency investigation


A second hand shop owner claiming he was supplying furniture to TV show ‘Inspector George Gently’ broke the law by storing items and burning them at a site in County Durham.

Peterlee Magistrates Court heard that one fire at the site – at South Moor, Stanley - led to a neighbour having to seek medical treatment for asthma and it also affected the egg-laying ability of his chickens.

Christopher Williams, 56, of Acton Dene in Stanley, pleaded guilty to a charge of illegally storing and incinerating waste between 1 December 2013 and 30 April 2014, following an investigation by the Environment Agency.

He pleaded guilty when he appeared at the court on Friday 8 May, and was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay £4,000 costs.

He was also ordered to pay £400 compensation to the owner of the land for waste clearance and £150 to a neighbour who suffered health problems from the effects of smoke.

It is against the law to store or burn waste material on land not covered by a permit to ensure measures are in place to prevent harm to the environment.

The court was told that Williams had permission from the landlord of the site to use a garage and part of the property to store “overspill” from his second hand shop.

Williams was seen bringing back items including wood, curtain material, bedroom furniture, plastic, carpets and old computer monitors. He told the local council neighbourhood warden that he was storing items not viable for sale.

Concerned about the waste on site and its untidy state, the warden contacted the landlord who paid to have a large quantity of the waste removed at his own expense.

Williams later denied the waste belonged to him but was later seen burning material on the premises.

Environment Agency investigating officers found the site’s garage was full of mixed waste and discovered an invoice and letter which was traced back to a home owner who had paid Williams £120 to take away her old furniture.

Officers served a notice on Williams warning him to stop storing and burning waste.

In mitigation he said that some of the furniture seen in the photos was not waste and had been supplied to the producers of Inspector George Gently.

Waste crime has a detrimental effect on local communities and the environment and can undermine legitimate businesses. Anyone who has information about waste crimes can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Published 13 May 2015