Home>Fire>Enforcement>Waste site operators sentenced in wake of Environment Agency investigation
Home>Fire>Fire and Rescue >Waste site operators sentenced in wake of Environment Agency investigation
Home>Fire>Legislation>Waste site operators sentenced in wake of Environment Agency investigation

Waste site operators sentenced in wake of Environment Agency investigation

28 May 2024

WASTE SITE operators who repeatedly ignored Environment Agency advice that their sites posed a persistent fire risk before fires broke out that burned for days have been sentenced. Punishments handed down have included prison sentences spanning 6.5 years and fines totalling upwards of £100,000.

The defendants appeared for sentencing at Teesside Crown Court on 20 May on charges spanning multiple environmental offences at three sites.

The first of the sites is Greenology (Liverton) Ltd at Liverton, near Loftus involving its director Laura Hepburn, aged 44, of Stonebridgegate in Ripon and manager Jonathan Guy Brudenell, aged 54, of no fixed address. Waste storage issues at this site culminated in a fire outbreak in April 2020.

Selective Environmental Solutions Ltd and its director Jonathan Waldron, aged 42, of Winton in Northallerton operated on this site with Brudenell prior to Greenology taking over. It also illegally deposited waste at a farm near Whitby.

The Old Eldon Brickworks site in Eldon, Bishop Auckland involved Waldron (as a director of Falcons Two Ltd) who failed to comply with an Enforcement Notice and kept waste in a manner likely to cause pollution. This led to a major fire at the site back in August 2020.

The third site is Greenology (Teesside) Ltd located at Sotheby Road on Skippers Lane Industrial Estate in Middlesbrough. Hepburn, in her capacity as director of this separate company, was sentenced for offences in 2021 and 2022 relating to the illegal storage of waste tyres.

Teesside Crown Court heard that the defendants repeatedly ignored Environment Agency advice about the storage and management of waste and the significant fire risk posed at all three sites.

When notified in 2021 of the prosecution for the Liverton site, and in an apparent attempt to preserve the reputation of the Greenology name, Hepburn duly changed the company name to LM South Yorkshire Ltd.

Disregard for environmental laws

Gary Wallace, area environment manager for the Environment Agency in the North East, commented: “All of those individuals sentenced have shown a complete disregard for environmental laws, which are there to protect people and the environment. They could have been in no doubt that the sites were operating illegally and posed a significant fire risk, but they repeatedly chose to ignore our officers’ warnings about bringing the sites back into compliance and making them safe.”

Wallace continued: “The walls of waste resulted in two major fires impacting the environment and causing misery for local residents. Waste criminals cause distress to our communities and can destroy the environment. This case demonstrates that we’ll do everything in our power to ensure they’re brought to justice for their crimes.”

Brudenell was jailed for two years and ten months. Hepburn was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work in the community.

Waldron was sentenced to 20 months in prison, suspended for two years, with requirements in place for probation supervision, rehabilitation and also 150 hours of unpaid work to be completed in the community. Waldron was also ordered to pay £9,000 in costs.

Greenology (Liverton) Ltd was fined a total of £69,000, Greenology (Teesside) Ltd was fined £20,000 and Selective Environmental Solutions Ltd was fined £14,666.66.

Environment Agency investigation

Teesside Crown Court was told that Selective Environmental Solutions Ltd first operated at the Liverton site between December 2018 and February 2019 with Waldron as director, Brudenell in a managerial role and Hepburn also involved.

Selective Environmental Solutions Ltd registered several waste exemptions, which allow low-level waste activity that doesn’t require an environmental permit.

In January 2019, the Environment Agency began investigating Selective Environmental Solutions Ltd as it was immediately in breach of its waste exemption storage limit of 500 tonnes.

In the wake of a falling out between the defendants, Hepburn set up Greenology (Liverton) Ltd, which took over the site in February 2019. Throughout this period, Brudenell continued in a management role, all the while using the false name of Guy Barker (a fact known by Hepburn).

Waste on site continued to increase, with the Environment Agency warning about the amount of waste and the fire risk it posed and taking subsequent enforcement action to have it cleared from the site. While the site was largely cleared, by late 2019 it had quickly been refilled with waste plastic.

On 5 April 2020, a major fire broke out, which quickly spread through the baled plastic waste and the building and destroyed the site. The fire burned for nine days, hugely impacting local residents who couldn’t be evacuated because of the COVID-19 national lockdown.

By helping to run both Selective Environmental Solutions Ltd and Greenology (Liverton) Ltd, Brudenell was also breaching a bankruptcy restriction order that prohibited him from running a company. The order had been imposed as a direct result of multiple fraud offences.

Second fire at County Durham site

Hepburn was also director of Greenology (Teesside) Ltd, which she set up in February 2020 to deal mainly with waste tyres. An Environment Agency inspection conducted in June 2021 revealed the number of tyres exceeded the limit of the site’s waste exemption and posed a significant fire risk.

Hepburn repeatedly claimed that the business was going to build a pyrolysis plant – for the recycling of end-of-life tyres – and had obtained a permit from Middlesbrough Borough Council for this purpose.

Despite Hepburn having obtained large sums of money from business partners, no pyrolysis plant was ever built. The site continually handled excessive volumes of waste tyres, which threatened to damage the environment.

In a separate case, back in February 2020 Falcons Two Ltd took over the operation of the Old Brickworks at Eldon in Bishop Auckland, with Waldron serving as one of its directors and the designated person with waste management knowledge.

However, the site was never in compliance with its environmental permit and was continually storing excessive volumes of waste, in turn realising a major fire risk.

Following inspections of the site, the Environment Agency told Waldron to take remedial action to bring the site back into compliance given the risk of a significant environmental incident due to multiple failures of the site’s fire prevention plan.

It also issued an Enforcement Notice requiring the removal of waste and the creation of fire breaks. This was breached just before the major fire broke out in August 2020. The fire here also burned for many days and was challenging for the Fire and Rescue Service due to the sheer volume of waste involved.