Growing number of cases under new air pollution controls

Local authorities are beginning to crack down on companies which are failing to comply with the authorisation procedures laid down in the air pollution control system established by the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Two firms have been prosecuted successfully in recent weeks, and a survey of local authorities has revealed that at least another three dozen similar cases are in the pipeline.

The first prosecution for a failure to apply for an authorisation within the period prescribed by the Act was taken against North Tyneside Health Authority in January by North Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council. The health authority was convicted of operating a clinical waste incinerator without an authorisation and fined £2,500 (ENDS Report 205, p 38 ).A similar case was heard by Shepton Mallet magistrates on 12 June. The court heard that the operator of a garage, Colin White Services of Glastonbury, had failed to heed several reminders from Mendip District Council that he should have submitted an application for a waste oil burner. The operator pleaded not guilty on the grounds that he had instructed his employees not to use the burner, but was convicted and fined £350. The firm was fined another £350 for emitting dark smoke in breach of the Clean Air Act.

A variation on the theme was heard by Dewsbury and Batley magistrates on 22 May, in a case brought by Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council. The defendant, Dean & Brooke (Installations), operated a timber process in Batley for which an application for authorisation should have been submitted by 30 September 1991. After receiving a reminder from the council, the firm submitted a late application together with a cheque for £800, the prescribed application fee.

However, the cheque bounced, and the company failed to respond when asked to issue another. At the hearing, it pleaded guilty to failing to pay the prescribed fee and was fined £2,000, with £197 costs. To add insult to injury, the firm had to pay an application fee at the higher level of £900 which prevails for 1992/3.

Meanwhile, a survey carried out jointly by the National Society for Clean Air and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities has suggested that applications for authorisation have not been submitted for several thousand processes subject to the new controls (see p 7 ).

The Department of the Environment has begun to encourage local authorities to take the businesses involved to court, and the survey - to which 286 of the 365 councils in England and Wales responded - also revealed that at least 36 cases are now in the pipeline. ENDS would like to hear of any proceedings instituted by local authorities under the 1990 Act, whatever the outcome.

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