EA’s first-ever shutdown of a waste site for noise pollution

The scrapyard of Bidwell Metals Ltd (BML), a long-time scrap metals business located near the Somerset town of Radstock, near Bath, is set to close due to excessive noise– described as the “worst noise nuisance” an Environment Agency expert had ever heard – after a judicial review.

It is the first time that the Environment Agency has taken the course of action of closing a waste site because of excessive noise pollution.

EA shuts down scrap site for noise nuisance for first time

Though BML possesses an environmental permit, an Environment Agency investigation found that the worst of the noise came from waste activities carried out under the ‘exemptions’ system, mainly emanating from the aluminium shredding machine, forklift trucks, angle grinders and mechanical grabs which affected up to 10 local properties.

Complaints from local residents resulted in the Environment Agency informing BML back February 2016 that its waste exemption activities were being de-registered and would have to stop.

Expert: noise nuisance ‘worst he had ever experienced in his career’

The decision to de-register BML’s exemption activities was taken by Jon Tofts, the Environment Agency’s national noise expert, who said that the noise nuisance was the “worst he had ever experienced in his career”.

BML applied for a judicial review of the decision, claiming that the Environment Agency had failed to correctly apply UK and EU law in terms of its property rights under Human Rights law and its ‘prescriptive right’ to cause a noise nuisance because of the company’s longevity.

The judicial review was set for 19 to 20 October but BML withdrew its claim at the Bristol High Court on the first day. The Environment Agency agreed to postpone closure of the Radstock site on the condition that the company agreed to following a Consent Order, of which the conditions are:

  • for BML to cease trading under its permit and exemptions at the site by 30 April 2017; and
  • as far as reasonably practicable, clear the site of all waste and scrap metal and inspect and clear site drainage and interceptors by the end of June and inspect the condition of the site and make good any polluted areas by the end of next October.

Commenting on the decision, Pete Hart, the Environment Agency, said: “This is a great outcome for the environment and people and shows the agency is prepared to take firm action against those whose operations are simply in the wrong place and cause misery to local people.

“We tried to bring about change at this site through advice and guidance and did a great deal of noise assessment to quantify and characterise the extent of nuisance. Eventually, we were left with no choice other than to put a stop to the exempt operations that were causing so much noise pollution.”

Failure to comply with the Consent Order will give the Environment Agency the right to take action against Bidwell Metals Ltd.