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05/04/2019

Enforcement: Notice upheld against 2,000 tonne 'waste mountain' in Newark

Words:
Bowbridge Road Unauthorised Waste / Nottinghamshire County Council

An inspector has upheld enforcement action against a 10-foot 'waste mountain' containing medical refuse that has been in place since 2015, after a criminal investigation by the Environment Agency failed to secure any prosecutions.

LOCATIONNewark-on-Trent
AUTHORITYNottinghamshire County Council
INSPECTORJ A Murray
PROCEDUREWritten submissions
DECISIONNotice upheld
REFERENCEAPP/L3055/C/18/3206116

In early 2015, waste contained in large hessian sacks was dumped on land adjacent to a residential area of Newark-on-Trent. The Environment Agency (EA) estimated that the site contained 2,000 tonnes of waste, piled 10ft high and 100ft across.

Sampling found that although most of the waste comprised plastic household and commercial waste, the pile also included some metals, fabrics, building materials, and food and medical waste. Local residents complained that the waste produced "offensive odours" in warm weather and had been attracting vermin.

The EA commented that it does not pay for the removal of waste because "it could be seen as an encouragement to those who operate illegally". It raided the site as part of a national operation known as Operation Encore, and a number of arrests were made. 

However, the resulting criminal investigation found insufficient evidence to bring any prosecutions, and the EA was unable to seek costs to cover the cleanup of the site, which was estimated to cost £200,000. Local MP Robert Jenrick described the operation's failure as a "national scandal".

The owner of the site stated that the waste had been "deposited by a trespasser without its knowledge or consent". It obtained an order of costs against the trespasser, who was subsequently declared bankrupt.

The site owner then entered into negotiations with Newark & Sherwood District Council with a view to selling it the site, but the district council withdrew in May 2018. Subsequently, the county council issued an enforcement notice requiring the appellant to clear the site within three months. The owner disputed the notice, leading to the present appeal.

Inspector J A Murray found no demonstrable need for the site to be used for waste storage, noting that there is a licensed and operational landfill site around two miles away.

Despite being screened from view to some extent by an earth bund, he continued, the rubbish pile was still visible from several points along a nearby road, harming the character of the area.

Murray noted that the waste was exposed to rain and sits on a permeable base with no engineered drainage system, creating a risk of contamination from run-off water. He also acknowledged neighbours' concerns relating to odour and vermin infestation.

Furthermore, the inspector added, the site forms part of an area allocated by the council for 66 homes. The waste was preventing housing being built on the site, he noted, undermining the council's ability to meet its housing delivery targets.

The appellant argued that the compliance period of three months required by the council was unreasonable, indicating that a specialist waste operator would need to be contracted, which would take nearer to 12 months. 

Murray was not persuaded that there was any need for a specialist operator. Although he acknowledged that the appellant would incur costs in complying with the notice, he did not consider this justification to extend the notice, pointing out that neighbours had had to "contend with the environmental consequences of the waste since 2015", and should not have to do so for any longer than is necessary now. The appeal was therefore dismissed.

"A national problem"

Councillor Chris Barnfather, Chairman of Planning and Licensing Committee at Nottinghamshire County Council, said; “I am pleased with the Planning Inspector’s decision to dismiss the appeal, which I am sure will come as a relief to the residents and businesses who have had to live in the shadow of this unauthorised waste site for more than three years. Like them, I look forward to the site being cleared and restored as soon as possible.

“The Planning Inspector supported our view that waste storage was a completely unacceptable use of land at this location and that the terms of our enforcement notice, requiring clearance of the site within a three month compliance period, is reasonable.

“The dumping and unauthorised storage of waste is a growing, national problem which blights communities and I welcome initiatives by the Environment Agency to seek out and prosecute those responsible. For our part, as the Waste Planning Authority, we will continue to hold landowners to account where they are storing waste without permission.”

Peter Haslock, East Midlands head of enforcement for the EA, said: “The Environment Agency were consulted and responded to the planning appeal and are pleased that the appeal has been dismissed.

"The County Council's enforcement notice is a positive move and we hope it can lead to the swift resolution of the matter for all parties involved and especially for the local residents.”

The inspector’s report – case reference 3206116 – can be read here.

Image credit | Nottinghamshire County Council

 

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