EXCLUSIVE: EA investigates Surrey’s largest illegal waste site as fears of hazardous waste dumping emerge

The Environment Agency (EA) has confirmed it is investigating a huge illegal waste site in Surrey after ENDS presented it with images that appear to show hazardous waste having been dumped there.

The barrels at Stoney Castle are suspected of containing PCBs. At least one is labelled as containing insulating oil. Photograph: Surrey's largest illegal waste dump

The illegal site at Stoney Castle Castle Ranges, Grange Road, Pirbright, is thought to be Surrey’s largest unauthorised tip and has been in use for more than 30 years.

The images, which were circulated on Twitter, appear to show rusting drums of insulating oil. Martin Baxter, director of policy and external affairs at IEMA, said if this was the case, then the drums might contain highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) – one of the original 12 persistent organic pollutants banned under the Stockholm Convention. They were formerly used in electrical transformers.

Having been sent the photos by ENDS, the EA said it was “aware of a number of issues at the Stoney Park site" and that “it is subject to an ongoing investigation by ourselves and local authority partners”.

Other photographs show burning vehicles and pools of liquid thought to be diesel and hydraulic fluid. An unidentified yellow liquid is also reportedly discharging from the site into local streams.

ENDS also approached the two councils that have jurisdiction over the site, which is immediately adjacent to a site of special scientific interest, a special protection area and a special area of conservation, cited for its marshland, heath and woods.

Guildford Borough Council said the site “remains one of our priorities as we work with our partners to focus on achieving compliance with legislation under our area of responsibility”.

A Surrey County Council spokesman said that the “ultimate responsibility for the site rests with the landowner and his representatives”. 

The spokesman added: “Surrey County Council is one of several agencies involved in ongoing activities at this site. We will await the outcome of ongoing investigations from other agencies, and will liaise with them regarding any future action that falls under our remit as the waste planning authority.”

Surrey County Council had issued the site with an enforcement notice in 2015, but the landowner Robin Hill lives in the Philippines and could not be contacted.

The council then successfully argued that Hill’s son, reality TV star Daniel Hill, was acting on behalf of his father and was responsible for managing the site. This was despite him living in Norfolk and neither owning nor occupying it.

Nevertheless, in 2018 Daniel Hill was found guilty of breaching a planning enforcement notice through failing to stop the dumping and fined £2,500 with the same in costs. A confiscation order of £26,000 was imposed.

He continues to strenuously deny any wrongdoing and is seeking to overturn his conviction via the Criminal Cases Review Commission, though local politicians have dismissed his allegation of a miscarriage of justice.

The prosecution did nothing to stop the dumping.

In a report last year, Surrey County Council said the ongoing offences would be subject to continued discussion between the councils and the EA and “appropriate action will be taken to resolve this difficult situation as far as possible in the absence of the landowner who still resides in the Philippines”.

However, local residents do not think the councils have been doing enough to close down the site.

Local campaigners, the Surrey Illegal Waste campaign group, are currently in the process of raising funds to take legal action against Surrey County Council whom they accuse of “breaching their legal obligations as the waste authority and not prosecuting the occupiers”. 

In a statement, the group said: “Despite our continued attempts to work with Surrey County Council, Guildford Borough Council, the EA, councillors and MPs we have been ignored and in some circumstances blocked on social media. It is appalling that after 33 years the issue continues and gets worse daily.”

The group said Surrey County Council and the EA have known the names and details of the four occupiers of the site since 2009 “but no legal action has been taken against them and we want to know why”.