A court order is now in place prohibiting anyone from entering or depositing more waste at the Shee Recycling site in Durham Road, Birtley, after the waste stored there becomes a fire hazard.
This is the second time that powers have been used in the Northeast.
The restriction order was obtained in Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court last week (Thursday, September 23) after Environment Agency attorney Chris Bunting described the case.
Officers from the Environment Agency and the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service visited the site several times in 2021 to encourage operators to bring the site into compliance with fire prevention guidelines, in particular by reducing the volumes of waste and by introducing firewalls between the piles of waste.
Items stored at the site include large oil barrels containing hazardous waste, cutting equipment, batteries and fuel cans, all of which increase the risk of fire. The site posed a high risk of fire if operations continued.
The Environment Agency has now locked the access door to the site, placing a warning at the entrance. Anyone entering the property without reasonable excuse or written permission from the Environment Agency will commit a criminal offense, as will anyone who tampers with the lock or notice.
Concerns about waste storage
John Crowl, head of the Northeast Environmental Agency’s law enforcement team, said:
Our priority is to protect the local community and the environment. This order was obtained following concerns about the storage of waste on site and its potential fire risk and after extensive work with our partners at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.
The site is close to other commercial properties, the East Coast Mainline and Rowletch Burn, and poses a significant environmental risk.
Unfortunately, despite repeated visits and actions by the Environment Agency, the company still failed to adequately address the issues raised.
This is the second time that these powers have been used in the North East and it demonstrates the strong steps we will take to end illegal waste activities and to protect the environment and communities.
While most waste sites are operated responsibly, we will take action against those who break the law.
Work with fire and rescue services
The Environment Agency is working alongside the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service as investigations continue.
Each of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s 17 community fire stations is responsible for assessing which sites in the local area present the highest potential fire risk to local residents.
After visiting Shee Recycling, crews from the Birtley Community Fire Station identified the risk created by the excessive amounts of recycling materials stored on site by homeowners.
Paul Thompson, Group Manager West District at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said:
This case is a perfect example of how the fire department creates the safest community by working in partnership with organizations like the Environment Agency.
Our assessment focused on the dangers and likely danger to life if a major incident were to occur at the Durham Road business premises. This included the need to evacuate residential houses in the vicinity, the risk to transport links and the overall threat to the environment.
The court’s decision to block access to the site shows how seriously all parties took this matter and the potential consequences it could have had on the local community if a major fire or major incident had occurred. .
We hope this will signal to other businesses in Tyne and Wear that the powers and authority are in place to successfully bring cases like this to court.
To report a waste crime, call the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060.