Haulage firm 'confused by Government website' fined for dumping waste at Honiton and Membury farms
PUBLISHED: 16:15 31 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:29 31 May 2018
A small haulage firm has been ordered to pay more than £24,000 in fines and other penalties after they misread advice on a Government website about tipping waste.
South West Tippers believed it was allowed to dump up to 5,000 tons of waste which it picked up from a building site on farmland because it was sandy soil.
The official government website stated at the time that there was a different limit for sand than for other types of waste but the wording has been changed since the firm was prosecuted.
It now states that the correct legal position, which is that the limit is 1,000 tons over three years at any one location while the 5,000 ton figure relates only to waste from mining or prospecting.
The company broke the limits by dumping more than the permitted 1,000 tons at three sites in East Devon when they disposed of waste from a major construction site at Axminster.
They were warned after depositing 1,290 tons at Granville Farm, Honiton in March 2017, but went on to dump 2,520 and 3,870 at Challenger and Park Farms in Membury in June and July 2017.
SW Tippers, based at Berne Lane, Charmouth, Dorset, admitted two offences of depositing waste beyond the limit of a permit when appearing at Exeter Crown Court.
The firm was fined £5,000 with £2,740.16 costs and ordered to repay £16,500 under the Proceeds of Crime Act by Recorder Mr Llewellyn Sellick.
He said: “I am told the director misread a government website and thought that because the words ‘sand and clay’ defined what he was collecting, it meant there was a higher limit.
“Bearing in mind the warning letter the company received in April, I take the view this offence was in between negligent and reckless, rather than being reckless or deliberate.”
Mr Dylan Sadler, prosecuting, said a very small amount of disposal is allowed on some farmland under an exemption scheme, but there is a strict limit of 1,000 tons. The company was caught dumping 1,290 tons at Grenville Farm in April and sent a warning letter. The offences relate to the later disposal of waste at the farms in Membury.
He said the company made a profit by getting rid of the waste more cheaply than on properly authorised sites and directors Alan Elmes and Philip Ellard had agreed to repay £16,500 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Mr Stephen Nunn, defending, said there had never been any intention to break the law and the company had kept full records of what it was doing at all times.
He said all the material was inert and non-hazardous and that Mr Elmes had been confused by the wording of the official government website.
He believed the higher limit for sand and clay deposits applied because that was the nature of the soil they were removing from the building site.
Mr Nunn said: “The website should have read as it does now. It was revised in November 2017 to say the waste sand and clay must come from exploring, mining, quarrying or minerals.”