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Electronic tag and suspended sentence for timber recycler

A timber recycling company director has been given a six-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months, and ordered to wear an electronic tag for one month, after a fire broke out at his site.

David McEwan was also ordered to pay £1,800 at Northampton Crown Court for costs to the Environment Agency (EA), which prosecuted the director for two offences.

His company, Larner Timber Recycling in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, went into administration in September 2013.

The court heard that, from May 2012, the firm chipped and sorted waste wood. It breached an environmental permit condition by failing to have a written management system to protect people and the environment. After nearly a year, it produced a management system but failed to follow it.

There was a huge volume of waste wood stored without fire breaks at the site. The company breached its permit again when wood particles from chipping polluted neighbouring sites.

McEwan was also the director of another business, Larner Pallet Recycling, which was prosecuted in May 2012 for causing dust pollution.

He was repeatedly asked for acceptable management and emissions plans, but none were produced until April 2013, the court heard.

A notice was served two months later to prevent the acceptance, shredding, pulverising and chipping of wood to stop a serious risk of fire.

Larner Timber Recycling

In December 2012 there was a blaze at the timber recycling site (left). The fire service had difficulty getting to the fire because of the amount of wood on-site. In May and June 2013, piles of chipped wood were seen smouldering. Despite advice from EA officers to create fire breaks, not enough had been installed.

Other issues at the site included waste being stored for more than three months and water cannons not being used effectively. The temperature of the waste was not properly monitored to locate hot spots.

EA officer John Jones said: “This prosecution was entirely avoidable had the company complied with our advice. We repeatedly tried to help it comply with its permit but, despite many visits and much advice, little was changed.”

In mitigation, the court heard that McEwan attempted to keep his business running but did not have the money after being mis-sold financial products. He had taken some actions including buying water cannons to keep the dust down.

The court was told that McEwan had a history of non-compliance. Judge Timothy Smith said McEwan had “put his head in the sand”.

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