County council sends out ‘clear message’ to those flouting environment and planning laws after recycling firm hit with £380K bill for breach

Lincoln's aerial platform at work on the fire at Barkston Heath, near Ancaster. Photo taken by watch manager Karl Turrill of North Hykeham fire station. EMN-180706-132346001
Lincoln's aerial platform at work on the fire at Barkston Heath, near Ancaster. Photo taken by watch manager Karl Turrill of North Hykeham fire station. EMN-180706-132346001

Lincolnshire County Council and the Environment Agency have commented on their successful prosecution of a Sleaford area recycling firm for breaches of environmental regulations following a serious fire at its site in July 2015.

As previously reported, Mid UK Recycling Ltd admitted breaching envionmental and planning regulations and failing to comply with a planning enforcement notice regarding incorrect storage of recyclable waste at its facility at Barkston Heath, Ancaster.

As a result of the incorrect storage of waste the serious fire that occurred at the site in July 2015 could have been minimised, instead it required closure of nearby roads for several days and warnings to local residents to keep windows and doors closed.

The cause of the fire was spontaneous combustion due to the long period of storage, the quantity and the nature of the wastes.

County Councillor Eddy Poll, Executive member for commercial and environmental management for Lincolnshire County Council, said: “This case clearly demonstrates the consequences of handling waste materials in disregard of planning conditions and environmental controls. This incident had a serious impact, not only on the environment, but also on the community.

“The residents of Lincolnshire should not have to pay for emergency services attending the consequences of waste crime and I am pleased that we have fully recovered all these costs. I trust that this case sends out a clear message that we will not tolerate environmental and planning crime in this county and we will always seek to recover the council’s costs where action is taken.”

At Lincoln Crown Court on July 24, 2017, Mid UK Recycling Ltd, landowner MC Mountain and Son Ltd, and a director Mowbray Christopher Mountain, pleaded guilty to a total of five charges for breaching planning and environmental legislation. They were sentenced today (Thursday, June 7) at Lincoln Crown Court and fined a total of £100,000, ordered to pay the council’s and the Environment Agency costs of £50,000, and also pay the council’s Fire and Rescue Service costs of up to £230,000.

In April 2014, Mid UK were said to have been found to be flouting planning controls and storing thousands of tonnes of waste at various locations around the site and in places to more than 10 metres high. There was also a stockpile of several hundred tonnes of unbaled carpets piled up to around 6 metres high. There were no appropriate fire breaks.

Mid UK did not remove the wastes as requested, as a result Lincolnshire County Council served a planning enforcement notice in July 2014, Mid UK did not comply with the notice and on July 7 2015 a fire broke out which spread across the waste and building.

Lincolnshire’s Fire and Rescue Service was in full-time attendance at the site for nearly a week.

Norman Robinson, Environment Agency area director for Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, said: “Crime of this nature can have a terrible impact on the environment and local communities. That’s why it’s vital those who handle waste work within the regulations.

“The company and the director in this case have repeatedly failed to comply with requests from our officers to implement and comply with fire prevention guidance.

“While we work with businesses to help them meet their environmental obligations, where there are breaches we’ll take enforcement action as in this case.

“This case demonstrates the need for everyone to take their environmental responsibilities seriously. We expect large businesses to set a good example to others in the industry, we hope to work positively in future with the operator.”

To report pollution or illegal waste activity, call the Environment Agency’s incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or report it anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Following the fire Mid UK Recycling took a number of actions to improve its site safety and facilities

and reduce the risk of future fires occurring.

Mid UK’s managing director Chris Mountain said in a statement: “Since the fire we have made many changes at the site which has enabled us to gain a bespoke fire prevention plan from the Environment Agency.”