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Skegness waste site managers jailed over “non-existent” fire safeguards

27 May 2023

TWO MEN operating from a Skegness waste site have been jailed and a third sentenced after the Environment Agency found they were storing material illegally. The site’s permit required a fire prevention plan to be in place to avoid a serious blaze and protect the environment, but such a plan hadn’t been devised.

Between June 2015 and April 2017, Thomas Todd, Jamie Todd and Bryan Walker managed businesses operating from the former Bowman’s Site located near the A52 in Lincolnshire.

On 8 June 2015, the site’s environmental permit was transferred to East Coast Recycling Properties Ltd. which was run by Jamie and Thomas Todd. This permit allowed for the processing of mixed waste with a view to extracting recyclable materials.

The Environment Agency began to conduct inspections at the site shortly afterwards and quickly found failings. As stated, the site’s permit required a fire prevention plan to be in place in order to avoid a serious blaze and protect the environment. This was particularly important as the site was surrounded by arable land and the nearest residential premises were only ten metres away.

However, the Todd brothers failed to have such a plan in place, in turn leaving the site at risk.

Inspections found that waste was being stacked too high and too closely together, thereby creating a fire risk. The waste had also become a health risk following an influx of mice and a problem with flies.

As a result, the Environment Agency suspended the site’s permit, stopping new material from being brought in between December 2015 and February 2016.

Absence of firebreaks

Further visits carried out by Environment Agency officers between March and May 2016 found that there were no firebreaks between the waste. This meant the waste stored on the site continued to present a huge fire risk. Consequently, the company’s permit was suspended again in July 2016.

That same month, a new company – namely Eco Green Logistics Limited – registered an exemption to start waste work on another section of the Bowman’s site. Bryan Walker was the registered director of this company. He also allowed too much waste into his section of the site, leading to waste being stored unsafely and presenting a fire risk.

Thomas Todd and Jamie Todd reassured the Environment Agency that waste would no longer be brought onto Bowman’s. Instead, the land would be redeveloped. However, the Environment Agency continued to find evidence of new waste being brought onto the land.

Also, MJT Development – itself another Todd company – was brought in to provide on-site security and remove waste.

The environmental permit for the site was fully revoked in March 2017 and the businesses were ordered to clear the site completely . The site was later searched under warrant where evidence was found to show waste moving on and off the site despite the restrictions put in place by the Environment Agency.

Both Jamie and Thomas Todd had a previous suspended prison sentence for very similar environmental offences, which the presiding Judge Batiste duly considered when sentencing.

Guilty pleas entered

The three men appeared at Leeds Crown Court on 19 May for sentencing, having pleaded guilty at earlier hearings.

Thomas Todd, aged 33, of Hunt Street in Castleford pleaded guilty to three counts. Jamie Todd, aged 42, of Wakefield Road in Drighlington, Leeds pleaded guilty to four counts. Bryan Walker, aged 60, of Beckhill Vale in Leeds pleaded guilty to five counts.

In his case summation and sentencing statement, Judge Batiste said that fire safeguards at the site has been “non-existent” and that the defendants had “flagrantly breached environmental law”. He added that, if any part of the site had caught fire, “it’s highly unlikely that it could have been contained”.

Judge Batiste said the actions of the Todd brothers had been “…so serious that only immediate custody can be justified”. He described the pair as the “leading lights” of the operation on the site.

On Bryan Walker, Judge Batiste ventured that his actions had been “wholly reckless”.

Thomas and Jamie Todd were both sentenced to eight months’ immediate custody and were disqualified from acting as a director of a business for a period of five years. A Proceeds of Crime Act process will be carried out for the Todd brothers in due course.

Bryan Walker was handed a 12-month community order and ten Rehabilitation Activity Requirement Days. He was also disqualified from acting as a director of a business for five years and ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge.

Serious form of criminality

Yvonne Daly, an environment manager at the Environment Agency, commented: “Waste crime is serious because it causes widespread and significant harm to people, places, the economy, law and order and the environment. Any breaches of environmental permits and illegal waste activity are taken very seriously. We will take the necessary action to disrupt such criminal activity and prosecute those responsible.”

Daly added: “We support businesses trying to do the right thing and genuinely comply, but we will issue enforcement notices and use our regulatory powers when appropriate. The defendants were told to remove waste and ensure safety on the site on numerous occasions, but failed to do so.”

A fourth man, Michael Todd (aged 65 of Leeds Road in Barwick-in-Elmet) was due to appear in court on 25 May to be sentenced on two counts relating to the site.