Business

Brothers guilty of waste breaches that caused two-month Swindon fire

Brothers guilty of waste breaches that caused two-month Swindon fire
The Marshgate waste site
Brothers Lee and David Averies, company directors of Averies Recycling in Swindon, pleaded guilty to a breach of environmental regulations last week (30 September), after igniting harmful fires that disrupted local businesses and the community, and posed a hazard to human health.

The two face charges brought by the Environment Agency (EA) regarding environmental compliance negligence at their waste sites.

The Averies brothers’ admitted breaches at three separate sites: Swindon Skips Ltd (SSL) in Cheney Manor, Averies Recycling Swindon Ltd (ARSL) in Swindon, and Calne Aggregate Holdings Ltd in Calne, Wiltshire, of which Lee Averies is director.

Fires

Swindon Crown Court heard that the brothers lit large fires at two of their sites in November 2013 and July 2014. The first fire, at their Brindley Close site, lasted a week and continued to smoulder for longer, disrupting the local business community and causing delays to the main First Great Western railway line nearby.

The second fire at Marshgate was more severe, reportedly involving 1,000 tonnes of waste, and burning for two months in total, affecting both local businesses and residents with the extended presence of the smoke.

 The EA says that the brothers failed to comply with notices served on them during these incidents and did not reduce enough waste to allow Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service to tackle the fires. Swindon Borough Council, the EA and the Wiltshire Fire and Rescue services were all involved in dealing with the blaze, and the clear-up operation is alleged to have cost around £500,000.

According to the EA investigation, the negligence at the Calne site was due to breaches of the Averies’ permit, which increased the risk of pollution and harm to human health – particularly from the risk of polluting run-off from the waste in the event of a fire.

Averies Recycling went into voluntary administration in December 2014 and went into liquidation in July 2015 following a fire at the Marshgate site.

The brothers have been charged with contravening the Environmental Protection Act of 1990, which forbids the ‘treating, keeping or disposing of waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health.’  

The Averies’ breaches in environmental regulations posed a threat through the effects of odour, waste, leachate run off, smoke and fire, through poor management of the site, inadequate infrastructure, and through the dangerous volume of waste stored on the site.

Following the fires, the EA removed the waste carriers licence from ARSL, restricting the company from collecting waste from either local businesses or residents. Environmental permits at both sites were also revoked, preventing waste from being accepted until the risk of serious pollution was removed.

Environmental impact reduced through partnership work

Colin Chiverton, Area Environment Manager for the EA, said: “The EA has worked hard to minimise the environmental impacts as a result of David Averies’ negligent, and Lee Averies’ reckless mismanagement of the site.

“Working in partnership with local authorities, the fire service and Network Rail meant that the impact to the community and environment had been significantly reduced.

”Our officers and contractors worked around the clock to remove waste from the site when the fires broke out to ensure the fire service had the space to extinguish the fires.”

Following their guilty pleas, Lee and David Averies are due to be sentenced on 26 October at the Crown Court.  

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