Hefty penalty for Barratt over gasholder waste dumping

Fines and costs totalling £65,000 have been imposed on Barratt Homes and a contractor over the dumping of waste from a contaminated construction site on a nearby farm. The penalty comes on top of a £100,000 bill for clearing the farmland this summer.

In March, Barratt and its contractor, Lumsden & Carroll, had pleaded guilty before Teesside Crown Court to permitting waste cleared from the construction site to be deposited on the farm (ENDS Report 266, pp 50-51 ).

The material, contaminated with mineral oils and polychlorinated biphenyls, was excavated from an old gasholder. The farmer did not have a waste management licence but was told by waste regulators that he was entitled to apply soil and other demolition waste to his land without a licence as long as it resulted in benefit to agriculture.

Barratt purchased the construction site in Middleton St George, Co Durham, to build houses. The site was cleared in 1994 in 270 lorry loads, at a cost of just £20 per load paid to the farmer, Alfred Swinbank, and a haulier - a fraction of the subsequent costs of clearing the waste.

At the March hearing, sentencing was deferred until the two firms had removed the waste deposits. About 5,000 tonnes of waste were taken to local landfills, a large proportion going to a "special waste" site 35 miles away.

In July, Barratt was fined £15,000 with £35,000 costs, Lumsden & Carroll was fined £5,000 with £10,000 costs, while Mr Swinbank was ordered to pay £1,000 costs. The offences were for knowingly permitting controlled waste to be deposited on unlicensed land, in breach of section 33(1)(a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Meanwhile, residents in the new Barratt homes have raised concerns over how effectively the site was cleared. Darlington environmental health officers have advised Barratt to test samples from the site to reassure them, since it appears that no analytical tests were carried out before foundations were laid.

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