Last reviewed 6 March 2018
On 15 January 2018, Exeter Crown Court fined CC Haulage & Sons Ltd, haulage and site clearance company, £14,000, and ordered them to pay £5000 costs, for dumping waste on Devon farmland. They were also subject to a £90,000 Proceeds of Crime confiscation order, bringing the total fine to £109,000. Polly Lord reports on the facts of the case.
CC Haulage & Sons Ltd is a family-owned and run company based at Manor Farm, Colebrooke, Crediton. The two directors are Colin Clarke and his wife, Deborah Clarke. They have over 25 years’ experience in muckaway and site clearance and supplying aggregate materials.
The court heard that in November 2016, the Environment Agency (EA) visited Beech Down Farm in Tedburn St Mary. They had become aware that waste was being tipped in a valley. Following investigation by the Agency, CC Haulage & Sons were found to have deposited 7820t of waste at the farm. Further inquiries revealed that excessive quantities of waste, mainly from building and construction sites, had also been tipped at three other Devon farms at Longdown, Exeter, Yeoford and Crediton. The offences came to light after the EA reviewed waste transfer notes that identified CC Haulage as the source of the excessive amounts of waste material.
Farmers are permitted to accept up to 1000t of non-hazardous waste, such as soil and stone, under an exemption. It is frequently used on farms to construct hard-standings, bases for buildings and tracks which don’t need an environmental permit. However, the investigation found that CC Haulage & Sons had financially benefitted by paying the farmers less to accept the waste than it was charging its clients to take the material away.
The defence for CC Haulage & Sons said that they had believed the farmers had the necessary permits to accept the waste from building and construction sites. They admitted however that they should have checked.
They were fined £14,000 and ordered to pay £5000 costs. Judge Geoffrey Mercer also imposed a £90,000 Proceeds of Crime confiscation order, requiring the company to pay back this figure from the profits it made from its criminal activities.
Judge Mercer said: “It is not entirely clear to me how the company were unclear about the limits.”
After the case, Richard Cloke of the EA said:
Haulage businesses must ensure they comply with the limits and conditions of environmental permits and exemptions. These are in place to stop the illegal deposit of waste, protect the environment and create a level playing field for the waste industry.
The prosecution raises two interesting features that waste suppliers must be aware of. First, is the nature of knowledge down the waste supply chain, particularly in relation to the procedure of exemptions.
The exemption concerned is U1 use of waste in construction. It is designed to enable suitable waste being reused, as opposed to using virgin raw material. It may be used for construction work, meaning building or engineering work — including repairing, altering, maintaining or improving existing work and preparatory or landscaping work. Land reclamation is only allowed when it is an integral part of the construction activity.
Working within the 1000t limit in relation to soil and stone, the exemption must still be registered to ensure compliance with other planning permissions or environmental permits. When the 1000t limit is reached, a standard permit for waste operations should still be sought.
As the EA website says:
A waste exemption is a waste operation that is exempt from needing an environmental permit. Each exemption has specific limits and conditions you need to operate within.
If you want to operate under a waste exemption you must register that exemption with the Environment Agency. If you don’t, you will not be exempt from needing a permit.
Each registration lasts three years. The registration will then expire unless you re-register the exemptions you want to continue to use.
Registering an exemption does not remove the need to apply for other permits or permissions. For example, you may need planning permission for your waste operation, or a water discharge permit.
While registration may be familiar to waste firms or haulage businesses, registering for an exemption may not be at the forefront of the minds of third parties, such as farmers. It is worth ensuring that exemption paperwork is up to date, even if it seems obvious.
Second, the court felt that the CC Haulage & Sons had deliberately sought financial gain. By imposing a confiscation order, it was intended that defendants were deprived of this gain resulting from their relevant criminal conduct. This is despite the admission that they ought to have checked the permits.
The case serves as an important reminder that the EA will not only pursue punishment for the offence itself but is also prepared to use confiscation orders to maintain standards across the industry.