LOOKING to visit Carmarthenshire? No tourist office could be greener than the fly tip near Ffos Las, which holds a mountain of fly tipped tourism brochures, banners, display cases and leaflets promoting the county’s many tourist destinations. The council’s own policy is to fine heavily anyone who uses a contractor who then illegally dumps that rubbish. As our associate editor Ron Cant has found in his exclusive report, this has not been the case.

By Ron Cant

JAILED serial fly-tipper and toxic waste dumper Sam Burton, of Cynheidre, has illegally scattered 10-tonnes of council owned materials within yards of a top Carmarthenshire tourist attraction.

Embarrassingly for Carmarthenshire County Council amidst the mountains of mixed rubbish are tonnes of tourism promotional literature, exhibition stands, cases, displays and banners boasting “Discover Carmarthenshire.”

Burton accepted the contract from the council as director of Burton Skip & Recycling Services Limited and JB Plant &; Groundwork Services Limited, while being investigated under Operation Topaz by Natural Resources Wales, that started in 2015.

In plain view for the wildlife: Discover Carmarthenshire

Land owner Ian Boxall was shocked to discover last year his 63-acre site at Ffos Las, Trimsaran, had been broken into and used as an illegal dumping ground for council building materials and promotional literature.

He found more than 40 boxes full of tourism literature, advertising Carmarthenshire attractions including the National Botanical Garden of Wales and others throughout south and west Wales, and expensive banners still perfectly serviceable amid five 10-foot high mountains of rubbish.

Natural Resources Wales were called in and though the council they quickly identified the fly-tipper as Sam Burson who was in the process of being convicted with others for other dumping offences at four other sites under Operation Topaz.

It was a blow to Mr Boxall to learn Burton was not being charged for the offences on his land at the same time of facing 11 other environment offences at Swansea Crown Court in September being told by NRW “it was not in the public interest to do so.”

Mr Boxall bought the 63-acres of land in 20ll. The site is the former water treatment works for Ffos Las open cast mine. The workings are now the much acclaimed Ffos Las racecourse just a road’s width away from his land.

The site comprises a large lake and open shrub and wooded countryside. A 20-year covenant expires on the land this year and Mr Boxall says the plan is to turn the area into a holiday park.

Dumped in it: Materials part funded by Welsh Government

Mr Boxall said: “The tipping occurred about 18-months ago. The culprit was identified by NRW but they decided not to prosecute as the offender was jailed for similar offences. I’m perplexed deemed it ‘not in the public interest!’

“The origin of the waste was identified as Carmarthenshire council and I understand they were issued a warning letter for breach of waste duty of care regulations. That being said, the council did not insure that their waste was lawfully disposed or check into the background of their contractor. I am still waiting to hear who is going to pay clear up costs. The council have offered but have gone quiet. You can draw your own conclusions!”

A hedgehog’s haven of tranquility: Leaflets to peruse

During Burton’s sentencing in December for other offences for which he was convicted in September 2019 the judge said the owner of the waste in one case Volker Fitzparick Ltd had not checked the disposal site or permit; had failed in their duty of care for the waste and carried out no checks into Burton. The company was fined £109,000 plus costs of £3,500.

The judge said Burton’s offences were much more serious and his business was based on criminal activity. He was jailed for 15-months.

Approached for a response to several questions including whether checks were carried out on Burton and due diligence shown in carrying out checks on the disposal site, Carmarthenshire council’s executive board member for culture, sport and tourism, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said: “We employed a licensed waste contractor in good faith and are extremely disappointed that council material was illegally dumped.

“We have supported Natural Resources Wales throughout their investigation of this matter. As the fly-tipping took place on private land we have had to follow the advice of NRW in the aftermath of this incident. We have requested access to clear the material and await further instruction.

“We undertook all responsible measures in employing this contractor, and this highlights the unscrupulous practices of a minority of people.”

Natural Resources Wales’ claim their purpose is to pursue sustainable management of natural resources in all of its work. This means looking after air, land, water, wildlife, plants and soil to improve Wales’ well-being, and provide a better future for everyone.

NRW approached for responses (see red below) questioning why they deemed this illegal dumping of council rubbish by a council engaged contractor was “not in the public interest” had not been able to respond at the time of release (13-02-20) because the issue was “still being considered by their legal department.

1: Mr Boxall said he understood NRW were prosecuting Burson but was then informed by NRW, they did not think it “was in the public interest to do so.” Can you explain this reasoning? (See letter from NRW bottom of page).

2: Has or will the NRW be taking any action against or making any recommendations to Carmarthenshire Council for failing in their duty of care to ensure the material was disposed in accordance with waste disposal regulations or for not carrying out checks into Sam Burton’s background?

3: Should the council be responsible for clearing the land of their rubbish illegally dumped at no charge to Mr Boxall?

 

 

We contacted NRW and put the following questions to them. They responded today with the following:

1: Mr Boxall said he understood NRW were prosecuting Burson but was then informed by NRW, did not think it “was in the public interest to do so.” Can you explain this reasoning?

NRW investigated the report of fly-tipped waste at  Trimsaran in 2018 and it identified suspects, a company and its director. When NRW’s investigation had concluded, a case file was submitted to its legal department for charging decision according to the Code for Crown Prosecutors and NRW’s enforcement policy. The reviewing lawyer concluded that NRW did not have sufficient evidence to prove to the criminal standard the suspects were guilty of depositing the waste on the land. The reviewing lawyer did, however, determine that the test was passed in respect of breaches of statutory waste duty of care for some of the waste found unlawfully deposited at the location.

There is no rule that a prosecution will automatically take place if the evidential stage of the Full Code Test is met. A prosecution will usually take place unless the prosecutor is satisfied that it would not be in the public interest to commence or continue proceedings. In this case, NRW was satisfied that it was not in the public interest to bring a prosecution against the suspects. In reaching this decision, NRW took several factors into account.

The company was dissolved in 2019. This was significant as, legally, the company concerned no longer exists for the purposes of proceedings in a criminal court. It was not considered to be in the public interest to have taken extraordinary steps to have the company concerned restored to the register of companies having regard to the cost to the public purse of doing so against a company with no assets and the likely sentence if the company was convicted.

The individual suspect (company director) was already subject of other criminal proceedings for serious environmental offences, for which sentences of immediate imprisonment were imposed. We had regard to the seriousness of the alleged offences and the quantity of waste involved, the likely sentence that would be imposed in the event of conviction under the Sentencing Guidelines as well as the costs involved in bringing criminal proceedings. The offences before a court can limit or restrict the overall sentence available. In this case, the court would only have been able to impose a fine. This meant that if we had prosecuted these offences, the court could not have imposed a materially different sentence to the one the suspect is already serving.

2: Has or will the NRW be taking any action against or making any recommendations to Carmarthenshire Council for failing in their duty of care to ensure the material was disposed in accordance with waste disposal regulations or for not carrying out checks into Sam Burton’s background?

NRW considered the available evidence in relation to the waste producers who were identified during its investigation and the waste duty of care, as it applied to them. NRW has not considered it necessary to take any enforcement action against any of the known producers of the fly-tipped waste concerned.

3: Should the council be responsible for clearing the land of their rubbish illegally dumped at no charge to Mr Boxall?

NRW does not have any comment on this matter.

Operation Topaz case background

Samuel Burton

Swansea Crown Court

WHEN: Monday 9 th September

Samuel Burton stood trial at Swansea Crown Court for 11 environmental offences including five counts of illegally disposing of waste; three counts of illegally depositing waste; two counts of treating waste without a permit; and one count of failing to provide NRW with information required by notice.

At the time of the offences, Sam Burton was the director of Burton Skip & Recycling Services Limited and JB Plant & Groundwork Services Limited.

The offences occurred on four different sites as detailed below.

Tirmynydd Farm, Birchgrove, Swansea

Weather (sic) It’s Hot or Weather It’s Not the wildlife will be miffed by the council’s pile

Illegal deposit of waste

In June 2015, NRW officers discovered unlawful deposits of dark coloured waste soil and gravel mixed with other waste including concrete, bricks and railway sleepers on land at Tirmynydd Farm and found heavy goods vehicles transporting waste that was traced back to a constructions site in Swansea.

Evidence shows Burton had been awarded a contract worth £95,000 to dispose of waste including soil and gravel from excavations at the site.

Thanks to CCTV footage and records obtained by officers, NRW estimates the defendant and those working for him had made over 150 trips from the Swansea site to Tirymynydd farm.

In November 2017, NRW commissioned an expert to carry out a specialist survey of Tirmyndd Farm which found around 2,577 cubic metres of waste, enough to fill over 400 skips.

Maes yr Haf, Carway, Carmarthenshire.

On the piste: Rabbits delight at the mountain of rubbish

Illegal disposal of waste

In July 2015, NRW officers attended a plot of land called Maes yr Haf, where a house was under construction. Officers found a large amount of construction and demolition waste deposited and extending beyond the site boundary, overlapping onto land owned by the local authority.

The deposited waste had raised the land by 10-15 feet in places and had damaged trees and shrubs.

Another visit to the site by NRW officers during 2016 showed another increase in the amount of waste deposited on the land.

In November 2017, NRW commissioned a specialist survey of the site and found an estimated 1,350 cubic metres of waste, enough to fill over 200 skips.

Brondini Woodlands, Five Roads, Carmarthenshire Illegal treatment of waste x2 & Illegal disposal of waste x 2

Samuel Burton is the owner of land known as Brondini Woodlands, a place used for keeping heavy goods vehicles and skips used by his businesses.

NRW officers attended Brondini Woodlands on various dates between December 2015 and November 2017. During these visits, they observed an ’embankment’ several metres deep that was made from mixed waste including soil, hardcore, tarmac, concrete, paving slabs, stone and metals.

It’s suspected that Burton was unlawfully operating a “transfer station” i.e. waste was being sorted and treated without the necessary environmental permit.

NRW commissioned another survey to assess the amount of waste stored at Brondini Woodlands and found that the deposits came to an estimated 3,849 cubic metres of waste, enough to fill over 600 skips.

Cysgod y Cwm, Cynheidre, Carmarthenshire

Illegal disposal of waste x2 & Illegal deposit of waste x2

During April and November 2017, NRW attended property at Cysgod y Cwm to investigate reported waste offences where Samuel Burton was living.

NRW officers saw deposits of mixed waste, including a buried skip and UPVC window as well as machinery that was used to ‘level’ the waste.

In November 2017, a survey was carried out to estimate how much waste had been deposited at the site. There were two large waste deposits at Brondini Woodlands, one was estimated to be a deposit of around 272 cubic metres and the other around 600 cubic metres. Together this would be enough to fill almost 150 skips.

Blowing in the wind: Llansteffan Castle

Failing to provide information

In November 2017, Burton was issued with a statutory notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requiring him to produce waste duty of care records for transfers of waste. The Defendant failed to produce any duty of care records to NRW.

On 4 September 2018, co-defendant William Howard Walters pleaded guilty to two offences at

Tirmynydd Farm. On 12 April 2019, he was committed to the Crown Court for sentence.

On 12 April 2019, co-defendant Volkerfitzpatick Limited pleaded guilty to an offence and was committed to the Crown Court and is due to be sentenced.

On 7 August 2018, co-defendant E Phillips & Sons Limited pleaded guilty to an offence and was sentenced in the West Glamorgan Magistrates’ Court on 21 August 2018 to a fine of £10,280 and ordered to pay costs of £2,525 and a victim surcharge £170.

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