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Retailer racks up £700,000 bill for illegal dumping

West Country retailer Trago Mills has been slapped with fines and costs totalling £200,000 for illegal dumping and burning of waste.

Trago Mills has been working to clean up the mess with the Environment Agency (EA), which brought the case, which the retailer said had cost it almost £500,000. The EA discovered several thousand tonnes of mixed waste, including sheets of asbestos, at two of the retailer’s out-of-town shopping complexes.

Torquay magistrates imposed a fine of £185,000 after the retailer pleaded guilty to five offences of illegally depositing and disposing of waste at sites near Newton Abbot and Liskeard. It was also ordered to pay costs of £14,558.

EA environment management team leader for East Devon Dave Brogden said: “From our investigations, it was clear these illegal operations had taken place over a lengthy period of time and involved thousands of tonnes of waste. The company had recycling schemes in place, but avoided costs by illegal dumping.”

Chairman of the bench Chris Rodgers said: “We believe these offences were a reckless breach of the law and not an isolated lapse. The company failed to respond to advice it was given by the EA.”

Officers visited Trago Mills’ Newton Abbot store in September 2009 and found illegally stored waste including soil, stone, plastic, electrical items, pipes, broken paving, tiles, concrete, wood, packaging, pot plants, chemicals and broken dustbins. Other materials such as office equipment, unsold stock, shop displays and hazardous materials including paint and timber preservatives were dumped behind a mound of earth and waste tyres.

On an adjoining part of the site, a larger area was found to contain around 6,200 tonnes of waste including 200 sheets of asbestos. Materials had also been burned in a large pit.

Video footage taken from a helicopter in June 2009 showed a stockpile of waste, containing wood pallets, furniture, timber, rubble and cardboard, in a wooded valley near the River Fowey on land that belonged to the retailer.  A year later, EA officers visited and discovered that the waste had been burnt.

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