Serious waste offences

Waste offences in Darlington have resulted in a Darlington man been given a two-year community order to incorporate 20 rehabilitation activity days and 300 hours unpaid work after magistrates in Middlesbrough sentenced him for serious waste offences.  He was also disqualified from acting as a company director for three years and ordered to pay £490 costs.

John Burnside Jones (26), of Coniscliffe Road, Darlington was sentenced at Teesside Magistrates’ Court on Friday 2 September 2022 having previously pleaded guilty to involvement in illegally misdescribing waste for financial gain.

Serious waste offences
Courtesy of the Environment Agency

Environment Agency officers visited Jones’ waste operation at the Trinity Works site in Haverton Hill, Billingham in January 2019. They found the business to be processing large volumes of waste types which the site’s environmental permit did not allow. The site was also found to lack the required management systems to deal with the environmental risks. Jones was served with notices requiring details of the site’s waste but failed to respond to these in full.

Further investigations by the Environment Agency revealed that between September 2018 and February 2019, over 6,000 tonnes of unpermitted, combustible waste had been transported to the site from as far away as Bristol. Jones had then transported more than 11,000 tonnes of inert waste soils to a nearby landfill site during the same period. The discrepancy between the volumes of incoming and outgoing waste was a result of Jones mixing incoming waste with soil and stones left from previous site operations and falsely describing this resulting mixture as inert waste.

Inert waste incurs significantly lower landfill tax per tonne and may also be disposed of at a much-reduced rate at landfill facilities without the same level of safeguards and protections as would otherwise be required. By fraudulently misdescribing the waste, Jones was able to make large sums of money by flouting his environmental obligations.

In mitigation, Jones stated that although his company had operated the site, he had limited direct involvement and had been very naïve in relying upon others to run the site for him. He had never previously been in trouble and fully co-operated with the investigation. He admitted that he had never seen the site’s environmental permit and was oblivious to its requirements.

The court ruled that the offending was deliberate and committed for financial gain. At an earlier hearing the permit holder James William Mason, 64, of Camden Street, Stockton-on-Tees had pleaded guilty to allowing the illegal waste activities to be undertaken on his site and was ordered to pay a total of £2,528 in fines and costs.

The conditions of an environmental permit are designed to protect people and the environment. Failure to comply with these legal requirements is a serious offence that can damage the environment, undermine local legitimate environmental permit holders, put jobs at risk and cause misery for local communities.

We welcome sentencing by the Court, which should act as a deterrent to others considering flouting the law.

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency

In most situations waste can only be kept on land if there is an environmental permit in place.  The permit will contain a number of conditions which must be observed in order to protect the environment.  Failure to comply with the conditions of an environmental permit is a criminal offence which can be committed by the permit holder as well as the person conducting the activities if they are different.  Any transfer of waste from one party to another must be accompanied by a controlled waste transfer note which accurately describes the waste and contains the relevant six-digit waste category code. 

If you require advice or support for your waste business, please contact one of the Ashbrooke team.

New Environmental Strategy Published

A new environmental strategy has been published by the newly established Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) detailing its mission, objectives and functions.

What is the OEP

The OEP was established by the Environment Act 2021. It is an independent public body, with powers to advise ministers and government departments and to hold them and other public authorities to account against their environmental responsibilities and the law. The new body’s independence is protected in law.

The OEP’s work covers England and Northern Ireland, and environmental matters reserved to the UK government. This includes matters in the marine environment where these are dealt with in environmental law or government targets and EIPs.

The OEP is funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in England and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland, who oversee the use of public money. Defra and DAERA ministers are accountable in Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly for this, along with the OEP’s work.

The body will publish a corporate plan each business year, setting out the resources it has available, and how it plans to make the best use of them through its activities and programmes. Whilst the OEP is a new organisation and relatively small, it intends to act strategically and make hard choices about how it will make the most difference for the environment.

New environmental strategy published

The organisation will publish an annual report to demonstrate how it has used its resources, and what it has achieved during the year. This will include an assessment of whether it has been provided with sufficient sums to carry out its functions effectively.

The New Environmental Strategy

The new environmental strategy sets out how its work will contribute to improvement in the natural environment and environmental protection, including the protection of people from the effects of human activity on the environment. This is the OEP’s first strategy, and the organisation has committed to reviewing it within the first 18 months of its adoption.

The strategy sets out how the OEP will pursue its strategic objectives, ambitions, and the approaches it will take to achieve them.  It sets out four objectives:

  1. Government is held to account for delivery of environmental goals and targets, and its plans for environmental improvement
  2. The environment is protected and improved, and people are protected from the effects of human activity on the natural environment, through better design and implementation of environmental laws
  3. Government and other public authorities abide by environmental law so it can protect people and protect and improve the environment as intended
  4. We are effective and efficient, with the authority, relationships, expertise, and voice to play our full part in national environmental governance

The strategy document sets out how the OEP will work, how it will deliver each of its four main functions, prioritise its activities, and work with others. The publication also sets out the organisation’s approach towards acting objectively, impartially, proportionately, and transparently.

The strategy also includes the body’s enforcement policy and provides detailed information about the way it will exercise this function.

The full strategy is available on the OEP’s website.

If you need environmental support or advice for your business, please contact one of the Ashbrook Team.

Staying safe near cattle

Recent incidents involving cattle have underlined the potential dangers they pose to walkers, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a reminder on staying safe near cattle.

The HSE, however, is stressing that serious incidents involving cattle and walkers are rare, while reminding both farmers and walkers to do all they can to keep everyone safe.

Farmers have a legal responsibility to manage their herds to reduce risk to people using footpaths and other rights of way.

The HSE regularly investigates incidents involving cattle and the public. A proportion of these incidents involve serious injury and sometimes death. Incidents often involve cows with calves or bulls, and the person injured often has a dog.

The HSE’s published statistics show that in the five years leading up to March of this year, nine members of the public died after being attacked or trampled by cattle.

Public safety near cattle

Members of the public can find out about steps they can take to safely enjoy the countryside and respect farming activities by following HM Government advice in The Countryside Code.

The advice includes:

  • Give livestock plenty of space. Their behaviour can be unpredictable, especially when they are with their young.
  • Keep your dog under effective control to make sure it stays away from livestock. It is good practice wherever you are to keep your dog on a lead around livestock.
  • Let your dog off the lead if you feel threatened by livestock. Releasing your dog will make it easier for you both to reach safety.

While many thousands of people enjoy the countryside and use the extensive network of footpaths, bridleways, and public access land every day, activities such as walking through or near cattle can be hazardous.

“All large animals can be a risk to people. Even a gentle knock from a cow can result in people being crushed or falling.  All cattle should be treated with respect.

“Farmers should carefully consider the animals put into fields with footpaths, for example cows and calves are best kept in alternative fields.  Even docile cattle, when under stress, perhaps because of the weather, illness, unusual disturbance, or when maternal or other instincts are aroused, can become aggressive.

“Follow farming industry and HSE guidance to reduce the risk from animals and help people to enjoy your land and pass through smoothly.”

HSE inspector Wayne Owen
staying safe near cattle

Cattle safety advice for farmers and landowners

The HSE has published guidance to promote safety and the Cattle and public access in England and Wales: Advice for farmers, landowners and other livestock keepers (AIS 17EW) is available for free download.  A risk assessment can help you identify the hazards and put controls in place to protect yourself, farm staff and the public.  You should record the significant findings of your risk assessment and review these regularly and when there are changes.

The NFU has also published guidance to help farmers stay safe around cattle which is available on its website.

Key considerations for farmers and landowners include:

  • No dairy bulls should be kept in fields with a public right of way (PROW) at any time.
  • Where possible avoid putting cattle, especially cows with calves, in fields with PROW.
  • Where there is a need to keep cattle with calves or a bull in a field with PROW do all that you can to keep animals and people separated.  Consider the use of fencing (permanent or temporary e.g. electric fencing). This is particularly important at busy times or where PROW are heavily used.
  • Assess the temperament of any cattle before putting them into a field with PROW.
  • If cattle, especially cows with calves, do need to be put into fields with PROW, keep this period to a minimum.
  • Position feed and water troughs away from the PROW and away from PROW entrances and exists to the field.
  • Put in place a system to monitor any cattle in fields with PROW at least on a daily basis. It may be worth recording this.
  • Consider culling any animal that shows signs of aggression.
  • Any animal that has shown any sign of aggression must not be kept in a field with PROW.
  • Clearly sign post all PROW across the farm. Display signage at all entrances to the field stating what is in the field (cows with calves / bulls).

If you require advice and support for your farm, please contact one of the Ashbrooke Team.