A Devon landowner has been fined after illegally importing 23,500t of soil on to his land in breach of waste regulations.
Stephen Dibble of Bycott Farm, Halberton, was fined £265 and ordered to pay £2,490 in costs after pleading guilty during a case at Exeter Magistrates Court.
Marie Sinead Berry, the director of the waste haulage company involved in the operation, was also fined £120, plus £3,500 in costs.
An Environment Agency (EA) official visited the site, previously known as Tiverton Motocross, after complaints, and found that thousands of tonnes of soil had been deposited on the land in a bid to bring it back to agricultural use.
Mr Dibble said his farm business had been struggling financially and that he didn’t feel he’d done anything wrong, as he had been relying on advice from third parties.
The EA said that under the U1 exemption for the use of waste in a construction activity, it is possible to use up to 1,000t of soil and subsoil for specific purposes.
However, it said Mr Dibble had breached the conditions of this exemption by accepting more than 23,500t of waste and so was operating an unauthorised waste disposal facility.
Mr Dibble should have applied for a permit from the EA to undertake the level of activity that he undertook, although there would have been no guarantee that he would have obtained the permit.
Richard Tugwell, spokesperson for the EA, said: “It is essential haulage contractors and landowners are fully aware of their responsibilities when using waste and take action to ensure they stay within the terms of a waste exemption.
“This was a sustained abuse of an exemption for financial gain.
“Importing more than 23 times the maximum amount of waste to this site changed the appearance of the landscape.”
Ms Berry, a director of CB Plant Hire, whose company transported the waste, admitted she had failed to carry out her normal duty of care checks and had “taken her eye off the ball”.
Farmers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales should be aware that similar rules are in force in each of the devolved regions, so they should check with their relevant body before undertaking any activity that could breach waste regulations.