Company fined for illegal waste dump that killed protected species
From July to October 2015, John Jones Civil Engineering and Groundworks Ltd deposited more than 5,000 tonnes of construction waste – including soil, stone, brick and concrete – into two land hollows at Bage Farm, Madley, Herefordshire.
The majority of the company’s contracts are in Wales and the border counties, where it carries out a range of civil engineering and construction projects. The criminal dumping of waste was compounded by the fact that the site was a habitat for great-crested newts, a European protected species.
Great-crested newts are the largest species of newt in the UK and are protected by UK law, meaning to disturb or damage them or their nesting sites is punishable by unlimited fines and up to six months in prison.
According to the Environment Agency (EA), the actions of John Jones Ltd resulted in ‘the disturbance, injury and killing of some of the newt population’, although the company’s barrister stated the newt population had ‘thrived’ since the offence was committed.
It was also stated in Hereford Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday (3 July) that the company, which pleaded guilty to the offence, had no previous convictions, though it did receive a caution for offences in 2010 and 2011. The company was ordered to pay £50,000 in fines and a further £50,000 towards prosecution costs.
EA Officer Lyndon Essex commented: “Waste crime is a serious offence with tough penalties as it can damage the environment and undermine those who operate legally. This case sends out a clear message that we will not hesitate to take action to ensure the protection of the environment.”
Waste crime remains an urgent problem in England, with more than 850 new illegal sites discovered by the EA in 2016/17. The government has been cracking down on rogue operators with the introduction of stronger enforcement powers this year, designed to make it easier for officials to block access to and clear waste at illegal and problem sites.
A review into ‘serious and organised’ waste crime is also in progress, to conclude on 8 July, gathering evidence from the public on the types of offences being committed and how enforcement agencies might best respond. The results of this review will directly inform the development of a new strategic approach to waste crime in England, to be published as part of the Resources and Waste Strategy, which is expected in the latter half of this year.