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UK: Prosecutions for Illegal Waste Operations result in £233,670 fine for Kent firms and a director.

"Waste crime puts the environment and human health at risk and undermines legitimate businesses" says: Environment Agency


EA Officer Jamie Lloyd sampling the waste soils near the river at Stanford Bridge Farm, Kent.Environment Agency
Three waste firms from Kent and one director have been fined £233,670 after pleading guilty to charges related to the illegal deposit of waste on golf courses and farms in the countryside around Kent and East Sussex.

On Tuesday 30 October 2012 Countrystyle Recycling Ltd., FGS AGRI Ltd. and the owner and director of both companies Trevor Heathcote pleaded guilty to multiple charges relating to the illegal deposit of waste between January and July 2011 in Kent and East Sussex.

Countrystyle Recycling Ltd. and Trevor Heathcote also pleaded guilty to Duty of Care offences associated with the movement of screening 'fines', the waste produced by the processing of skip and dustcart waste at their waste transfer stations at Folkestone and Strood during the same period.

As part of the same investigation, haulier Mark Luck Ltd. from Swanley, Kent had previously pleaded guilty at Chatham Magistrates Court on 28 August 2012 to depositing waste screening fines from the two Countrystyle sites on a golf course using fraudulent Duty of Care notes.

Canterbury Magistrates' Court heard that Countrystyle Recycling Ltd. was identified as tipping waste screening fines on a driving range in Chatham and an inert landfill in Maidstone in the autumn of 2010. The waste was not suitable for these sites and the accompanying paperwork inaccurately described the waste as soil. Environment Agency staff advised the company of these failings, but a subsequent investigation identified waste screening fines from the Folkestone and Strood waste transfer stations were illegally deposited on at least three sites between January and July 2011.

In the first three months of 2011, Mark Luck Ltd. removed waste screening fines from both waste sites, which the related Duty of Care notes falsely described as soils. This enabled the company to dispose of the waste at Deansgate Golf Course at Hoo St Werburgh near Strood for £60 a lorry. Lorry loads of screening fines should cost between £275 and £330 to dispose at an appropriate landfill.

The Environment Agency identified that such waste had been tipped on the golf course but due to the fraudulent paperwork could not identify the source at the time as being Countrystyle's waste transfer stations. Mark Luck Ltd. stopped moving waste for Countrystyle Recycling Ltd. in March 2011 after it was seen to tip the waste.

The Environment Agency investigation subsequently discovered several instances of screening fines being removed from Countrystyle's Folkestone site without the correct paperwork being completed, without the correct rate being paid for the disposal of the waste and the waste that had been removed was being described incorrectly.

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Between May and June 2011, the Countrystyle Recycling Ltd. Director Trevor Heathcote oversaw 29 lorry loads of screening fines to be moved from the Strood Waste Transfer Station to his farm and the operating base for his agricultural contracting firm FGS AGRI Ltd. at Stanford Bridge Farm, Pluckley, Kent. The two businesses are closely linked with waste from Countrystyle Recycling Ltd. and Countrystyle group being spread on large areas of land controlled by FGS AGRI Ltd. for agricultural benefit.

29 lorry loads of waste, which were identified as being inaccurately described as aggregates on the Duty of Care documentation, were deposited on the farm next to the River Beult and spread between an arable field and ponds. FGS AGRI Ltd. had registered an exemption with the Environment Agency to import waste to the farm for use in construction projects. Screening fines however could not be deposited on the farm under this authorisation. Analysis confirmed that this waste had the potential to pollute the ground and watercourse and it was removed. The waste was tipped on the farm at no cost, whereas legitimate disposal of the waste would have cost between £275 and £330 per lorry load.

Inaccurately labelled waste was also tipped at a waste processing site in Rye, East Sussex.

Jamie Hamilton, the investigating Environment Agency Officer, said:
"The Environment Agency will not tolerate large waste companies failing in their Duty of Care, manipulating their paperwork or illegally depositing polluting waste for financial gain.

"Waste crime puts the environment and human health at risk and undermines legitimate businesses. The waste industry is well aware of its responsibilities with regards to the disposal of waste screening fines. Companies that subsequently make the decision to use sites such as golf courses, farms and inappropriate waste sites for the cheap disposal of such waste should not be surprised when they are prosecuted."

In mitigation, the defence indicated full culpability on behalf of Trevor Heathcote and the companies involved, and stated their intention to strengthen their internal procedures and put Trevor Heathcote through a series of internal and external training programmes, including one provided by the Waste Management Industry Training and Advisory Board.

Photos related to the prosecution are available to download from our Flickr site at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/environment-agency/sets/72157631895780036/

  • Trevor Heathcote, director and owner of Countrystyle Recycling Ltd. and FGS AGRI Ltd., was fined £86,000, required to pay £15,000 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

  • Countrystyle Recycling Ltd. was fined £46,000, required to pay costs of £7500 and a £15 victim surcharge.

  • FGS AGRI Ltd. was fined £40,000, required to pay £7500 and a £15 victim surcharge.

  • At the previous court case at Chatham Magistrates Court, Mark Luck Ltd. was fined £26,700 for one section 33 EPA 90 charge, required to pay costs of £4910 and a victim surcharge.