Suspended sentence for manager of Cornwall illegal waste site

The manager of a waste transfer station (WTS) has been given a 12-month suspended sentence and is banned from working in the waste industry for five years for running an illegal waste site in Torpoint, Cornwall, after a case was brought by the Environment Agency (EA).

Adam Wilcott, of Copleston Road, Plymouth, was found guilty of operating the illegal site on behalf of Highgate Services Ltd, which took over the environmental permit for the site at Trevol Business Park in December 2017 from Wilco’s Waste Management Ltd.

The illegal site in Torpoint, Cornwall, overflowing with rubbish.
The illegal site in Torpoint, Cornwall, overflowing with rubbish.
The site, which was permitted to accept non-hazardous waste including stone, rubble, brick, wood, packaging, plastics, construction waste, metal and household wastes, was found to be in a ‘very poor state’ when visited by EA officers in January 2018. Unsorted waste was overflowing onto adjoining land, contaminated run-off was overflowing from a drain and waste was being stored in skips outside the permitted area. The main building was poorly maintained and this had resulted in flooding of an area used to store waste.

Despite being served with a Compliance Assessment Report listing five site permit breaches, Highgate Services Ltd made no attempt to rectify the highlighted issues, with officers noting persistent non-compliance on four subsequent site visits between April and August 2018.

In July 2018, Wilcott was found to have deliberately locked the WTS after finding an EA officer outside, who then conducted the site inspection from outside the boundary after being denied access, still finding it in a poor state.

The state of the site continued to deteriorate, with the officer returning a few days later to find a site that ‘appeared to be out of control’, and was ‘rammed full of mixed skip waste with many tonnes spilling into the yard’. The officer repeatedly tried and failed to contact the sole director of Highgate Services Ltd, Michael Bonar.

Highgate Services Ltd was served with three enforcement notices by the EA requiring it to reduce the amount of waste on site within a specified period of time, complying with the first, but failing to comply with the other two.

In a hearing at Plymouth Magistrates, the court heard that the WTS ceased to operate in November 2018 and was later sold to a developer with a large amount of abandoned waste remaining on the site. The EA is working to ensure that the new landowner clears the site of the waste.

Wilcott was handed a 12-month sentence suspended for two years by Plymouth Magistrates and was ordered to pay £2,308 costs and carry out 100 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to four offences under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016. He has also been handed a Criminal Behaviour Order, banning him from working in the industry for five years.

Highgate Services Ltd, of Burnt Oak Hill, London, was fined £18,800 and ordered to pay £2,338 costs after pleading guilty to the same four offences as Wilcott.

Commenting on the case, the EA’s Tina Cossens said: “It is important waste operators comply with the conditions of their permits to safeguard the environment and people. The defendants in this case continued to operate illegally despite receiving advice and guidance from the Environment Agency on numerous occasions. The operators allowed the site to steadily deteriorate until finally we were left with no choice other than to prosecute.”