A County Durham man sentenced after waste burnt on land near Derwent Reservoir. He has been sentenced to suspended jail time for burning, repeatedly storing and burning waste in a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency.
Christopher Williams, of Stanley, appeared at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 18 April where he pleaded guilty to two charges of operating an illegal waste site and one of not complying with an Environment Agency notice to provide information about waste disposal.
Prosecuting on behalf of the Environment Agency, Chris Bunting told the court that Williams dumped and burnt waste on a smallholding at School House Farm in Kiln Pitt Hill, near the A68 and Derwent Reservoir.
He was sentenced to 36 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs.
The land was not authorised for any waste activities and the court heard that it would be very unlikely that a waste operation would be allowed at that location.
Advice and law ‘deliberately disregarded’
Environmental permits are in place for the protection of the public and environment and waste crime such as this – burning waste like plastics and treated wood that produces a toxic smoke – can be extremely damaging.
Our officers repeatedly told Williams to stop burning waste and clear it from the land but he deliberately disregarded their advice and the law.
We take all waste crime seriously and I hope this sentence sends out a message to others that we will take tough action against those who flout the rules. People can report waste crime to our 24-hour hotline on 0800 807060.Andrew Turner, Area Environment Manager for the Environment Agency in the North East
Environment Agency investigation
Williams operates an organisation known as the LCA Community Charity, which provides help to people, schools and other charities with clothing and furniture, and offers house and shop clearance services. However, the court heard that Williams regularly dumped and burned residual waste from those activities at the smallholding.
In March 2020, the Environment Agency received a report of burning on land at School House Farm. Officers attended and saw mixed construction and household waste, including a metal garage door, plastic guttering, wood, a shopping trolly and a fridge. They also saw evidence of burning, with a one-metre high pile of ash.
Officers instructed Williams to stop the fires and clear the remaining waste from the land but checks at the end of May revealed more waste had been dumped with nearby piles of ash from fires.
Williams said no further burning would take place and he would clear the site of waste and at the end of August 2020 the site was largely cleared.
During the following months officers continued their investigation into the waste activities and issued a notice to Williams requiring him to provide documentation relating to the removal of waste from his site, so the EA could track its disposal. They did not receive a response and Williams received a fine, which he did not pay.
In March 2022, Environment Agency officers again attended the farm, and again saw household waste had been dumped, along with doors, window frames and furniture. Two months later, several reports were received of waste again being dumped and burned on the site, and inspections revealed a large pile of ash with a new, more concealed burning location discovered and waste hidden under a tarpaulin.
The court was told that Williams had twice been convicted in the past 9 years for similar offences involving waste burning. Magistrates decided that although a custodial sentence was inevitable, it could be suspended on account of the guilty pleas and testimonials from people who had been supported by donations received.
If you require advice about waste management activities, please contact one of our team.