County Durham farmer fined £1,600 over illegal waste operation

A County Durham farmer has been fined £1,600 for operating a waste treatment facility without a legal permit.

Stephen Anthony Suddes, 52, of Thornley Pit House Farm, near Tow Law, Bishop Auckland, was handed the fine by Darlington Magistrates on 12 May after an illegal waste fire was seen on his land in May 2012.

Chris Bunting, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court that the fire was emitting a large quantity of black smoke.

Investigating officers visited the site and found a large pile of mixed waste that included green waste, wood, plastics, metal, rubble and soils, and there were clear signs of scorched earth, indicating that the pile had been on fire.

Another visit later in summer found that some black plastic bags, filled with waste, and timber had been added to the pile, and again there was evidence of a recent fire, with smouldering ash present.

Piles of untreated mixed waste were also found in one of Suddes’ farm buildings.

Suddes, who has a previous conviction for illegally depositing waste, admitted one charge of operating a regulated waste facility without a permit.

In mitigation, the defendant said that most of the waste burned had originated from his own premises, rather than him having collected it from other sources. He added that some of the waste on the burned pile had been fly-tipped on his land, although he had burned that as well as the waste he had generated himself.

Andrea Wass, environment officer at the Environment Agency, said after the hearing:

The fine imposed by the court demonstrates the seriousness of environmental offences. Waste facilities can pose a risk to the environment and local communities if they are not properly managed – that’s why it is vital that farmers, companies and individuals work within the rules.

Anyone who suspects that waste is being disposed of on an illegal waste fire is urged to report the matter to our incident hotline on 0800 807060.

As well as the fine, Suddes was ordered to pay £2,909.85 in legal costs and a £160 victim surcharge.

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