A landowner who allowed two men to set up an illegal waste wood recycling business in the Devon countryside has been ordered to pay £12,850 in fines, costs and compensation.
Exeter Crown Court heard how in 2015 Anthony Joyner leased part of Cockwells Nursery near Totnes to Steven Loveridge and David Weeks who started a new business, Woody’s Recycling, at the site. Material was transported to the facility, but none ever left, resulting in a huge stockpile of waste wood.
In early 2016, Joyner locked the gates to the recycling centre after Loveridge was sent to prison for an offence unrelated to environmental matters. With staff unable to gain access, Woody’s Recycling stopped trading, leaving about 10,000 tonnes of waste wood, plus approximately 3,000 tonnes of tree stumps at the site.
In April 2016 the defendant approached another recycling company to see if it was interested in the stockpile of waste wood. He was told the waste was of poor quality and had little or no commercial value and could cost up to £750,000 to remove. The following month much of the huge stockpile of waste wood was destroyed in a fire that covered an area about the size of a football pitch and burned for five days.
A witness who lived nearby described having to shut his windows and remain indoors for two days to avoid the smoke and ash. It cost the fire service more than £28,000 to attend the blaze and put it out.
A court heard how the quantity of waste brought to the facility - a disused plant nursery - far exceeded the amount allowed (1,000 tonnes) under the site’s waste exemption. Although the waste was mainly wood, other materials including mattresses, plasterboard, plastics and metal were also deposited at the nursery.
Joyner said he was paid a monthly rent of £1,500 by company directors Loveridge and Weeks who had earlier assured him they had obtained the necessary permits for the type of waste operation they were running. Earlier this year Loveridge, who was responsible for the day-to-day operation of Woody’s Recycling, was given a six-month prison sentence following a hearing at Plymouth magistrates, after he pleaded guilty to operating an illegal waste operation at Cockwells Nursery, an offence under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.
At a separate hearing at Plymouth magistrates Weeks, who acted as an consultant and helped set up the business, was fined £9,553 and ordered to pay £1,767 costs after pleading guilty to a similar offence. Joyner was fined £3,600 and ordered to pay £5,000 costs after pleading guilty to knowingly permitting the keeping of controlled waste on land in respect of which no environmental permit was in force, in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health, an offence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
He was also ordered to pay the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service £4,250 compensation. The Environment Agency is also taking action against Joyner for the clearing up of the site. A hearing is due to take place in December.