Yate men handed suspended sentences, fines and behaviour orders for waste offences carried out during Covid lockdown

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A photograph of the waste pile before and after it had been set alight

Two men from Yate have been given suspended prison sentences, instructed to pay a total of £10,353.26 in fines and costs, and handed Community Behavior Orders after South Gloucestershire Council and the Environment Agency prosecuted them when a huge amount of waste was collected from across the area and fly-tipped, with some of it set fire to on private land.

Tom Pleass (29) of Cherington in Yate and David Hemmings (51) of Hatherley in Yate were prosecuted by South Gloucestershire Council’s environmental enforcement team and the Environment Agency following a string of waste offences dating back to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. These included fly-tipping, disposing of waste illegally and operating an illegal waste site where vast amounts of accumulated waste were set on fire. Sentencing took place at Bristol Magistrates Court with Pleass appearing on 30 October and Hemmings on 18 October.

The court heard that the council’s environmental enforcement officers identified waste at six fly-tips that took place on public roads between March 2020 and December 2021. Working with local residents they confirmed that the waste at each of the locations had come from their respective home addresses and that Tom Pleass had been paid to properly dispose of the waste. On another occasion a vehicle registered to Pleass was seen at the location of a fly-tipping offence.

Pleass was interviewed by council officers where he agreed he must have collected waste a minimum of 200 times during this time period and could not produce any Waste Transfer Notes for the collections or for lawfully disposing of it at a Waste Transfer Station. He admitted fly-tipping waste at two separate locations in fields where it was subsequently burnt. One of those locations was Hemmings’ property Riverdale Farm in Old Sodbury and Pleass conceded he was present when much of the waste was burnt in an enormous pile including a caravan, on 5 November 2021.

Pleass had also registered his tipper truck with South Gloucestershire Council to enable him to use it at the area’s Sort It recycling centres. Access to the sites for registered vehicles is restricted for residents’ personal household waste and commercial vehicles are only allowed a maximum of 12 visits per year. Pleass took his tipper truck to Sort It centres 12 times over 22 days, and then despite repeated warnings from staff to desist, he went on to visit a further 26 times over 46 days.

When he appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court, Pleass pleaded guilty to one charge of being responsible for seven fly-tips between March 2020 and December 2021, two charges of unlawful disposal of waste (by burning waste) at two different locations, one of which was at Riverdale Farm, and one charge of having No Waste Transfer Notes for the period of March 2020 and December 2021. He was sentenced to a total of 36 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, ordered to pay £1,000 costs and a £149 victim surcharge, and to attend a six-month Drugs Rehabilitation programme and a Mental Health Support programme.

In addition, the council applied for a Criminal Behaviour Order which was granted by the court in full for a period of five years. This prohibits Pleass from entering any South Gloucestershire Council Sort It recycling centre, being involved in the storing, transferring, treating or disposing of waste except as part of the refuse collection process of his own household waste, and being involved in any bonfires except for a small bonfire at the property in which he resides.

The owner of Riverdale Farm in Old Sodbury, David Hemmings, had earlier pleaded guilty to various environmental offences including running an illegal waste site and burning waste at the farm. He was sentenced to 15 weeks in prison, suspended for a year, and ordered to pay costs totaling £9,050.26 along with a £154 victim surcharge.

Hemmings was additionally given a five-year Criminal Behaviour Order banning him from having further bonfires at the site, except for burning green waste originating there. He was also prohibited from depositing any waste onto the farm originating from him or a third party and ordered to return the site to its previous state. A seven-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement was also imposed.

Councillor Leigh Ingham, cabinet member responsible for environmental enforcement at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “When it comes to waste offences, we are absolutely determined to bring offenders to court.
“Both of them showed a complete disregard for the laws regarding waste disposal and the environment.
“The fact that this happened during the Covid-19 pandemic is a betrayal of everyone who obeyed lockdown rules, and also the waste collectors who dutifully carried out their jobs during an incredibly difficult time.
“When the rest of us strive to recycle everything we can and dispose of our rubbish responsibly, dumping and burning this much waste is completely unacceptable.”

A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “Anyone who tries to get rid of waste on the cheap is almost certainly breaking the law and can expect similar treatment.”

Residents and businesses are advised to only give their rubbish to an Environment Agency registered waste carrier.

Contractors should ensure that they hold a Registered Waste Carriers Licence and they comply with the Waste Transfer Note requirements.

You can carry out these simple steps to make sure your waste is disposed of legally:

  • Ask for a copy of the company’s waste carrier registration certificate and ask where the waste is being taken. Legitimate firms will be happy to provide this information
  • Do not be tempted to use people offering cheap waste clearance on sites such as Facebook and Gumtree unless you have confirmed that they are registered with the Environment Agency
  • Check whether the waste carrier is registered by calling the Environment Agency on 08708 506506 or by checking on their website https://environment.data.gov.uk/public-register/view/search-waste-carriers-brokers
  • Ask for a registered trading address and contact telephone number for the trader and get a receipt
  • Residents are advised to take photographs of the waste taken away and, if consent is given, of the person and vehicle used to remove it.

Unwanted goods and household or garden waste can all be disposed of at no cost via the council’s Sort It centres https://www.southglos.gov.uk/sortitcentres

Residents who see illegal fly-tipping are encouraged to report it by contacting the StreetCare helpdesk on 01454 868000, emailing streetcare@southglos.gov.uk or visiting www.southglos.gov.uk/flytipping