Waste crime arrests in Lincolnshire
Two people were arrested in Lincolnshire in a raid of an illegal waste site on Thursday (30 April) following intelligence and reports of suspicious activity, serving as a “warning” to those flouting the law and the Covid-19 lockdown.
Intelligence revealed that the site on Fen Lane, Long Bennington, was accepting lorry-loads of waste, including plastics, commercial waste and household furniture, before being burnt illegally on the site. Reports stated that the smoke arising from the burning waste piles was placing the local people and environment in danger.
The site had been subject to ongoing investigations for illegal waste activity with successive businesses taking over the operation of the site before going bust. The last full regulatory inspection conducted by police officers and planning enforcement officers from Lincolnshire County Council took place in January.
Despite the introduction of lockdown measures brought in to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus, environment officers observed the burning of waste continue over several weeks, taking action to stop the illegal activity.
Lincolnshire Police and the Environment Agency (EA) have since issued legal notices and blocked site entrances and all activity has been halted. An excavator and a lorry that were used to deposit waste on the site have also been seized. If found guilty, those responsible could face extensive fines and even prison sentences.
‘A shocking disregard for our communities’
Norman Robinson, Area Director for the EA, commented: “Deliberately stockpiling and burning waste that should be safely disposed of is dangerous enough, but doing so in the current situation while people and legitimate businesses are so restricted shows a shocking disregard for our communities, society and the environment.”
Robinson continued: "It’s our job to protect people and nature even in these uncertain times, which is why our regulatory and enforcement work continues while we adhere to the government’s guidelines around coronavirus.
"This should serve as a warning to those who would flout not just the law, but the lockdown – we and our partners are still fighting to put a stop to waste crime and we won’t hesitate to take action."
Chief Inspector Phil Vickers of Lincolnshire Police said: "Lincolnshire Police have supported this EA-led operation on a site that was causing harm to the local community, to the environment and to legitimate businesses who operate responsibly and lawfully. We will work with partners and continue to enforce against offenders who operate illegally during the lockdown period and to protect our rural communities.
"Responsible waste management is everyone’s responsibility – we work with the EA, County Council and all of the District Councils across Lincolnshire to protect our countryside and to keep rural communities safe. We are grateful for the support from Long Bennington residents in ensuring this large-scale site could be subject to enforcement today."
The raid on the Long Bennington site was carried out under the new Joint Unit for Waste Crime initiative, which was launched earlier this year by the EA and partners to stop serious and organised crime in the UK waste industry.
Reports of waste crime and fly-tipping have increased during the coronavirus lockdown, with the Countryside Alliance reporting a 300 per cent rise in some areas. In response, the government has pressed local authorities to reopen Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) to allow resident sto dispose of built up household waste, while waste management company Biffa has launched an app to identify cases of fly-tipping and offer a clearance service during the covid-19 pandemic.
Anyone who suspects illegal waste activity is reminded to report it to the Environment Agency 24-hour hotline by calling 0800 80 70 60, or anonymously contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.