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Waste4Fuel contempt case dismissed over lack of clarity by Environment Agency

Lack of clarity in the wording of an injunction against a company responsible for an enormous pile of waste was the key reason a contempt case was dismissed, legal documents have revealed.

Exclusive MRW strap

Between 12,000 and 15,000 tonnes of waste remain at Waste4Fuel’s site in Orpington, Bromley, which the the Environment Agency (EA) is now treating as abandoned. Since December 2013 the company has been operating under a company voluntary arrangement.

In March, the EA sought contempt charges in the High Court against Waste4Fuel, its former and current directors and a contractor for failing to comply with an order from November 2013 that told the company to reduce waste at the site.

But the agency’s request was turned down by Judge David Eady in July, who in his judgment published since the hearing said the EA’s strategy had “foundered at two stages”.

It said: “First, in not identifying with sufficient clarity the obligations to be imposed upon the relevant respondents and, secondly, in not being able to establish a breach or breaches to the criminal standard.”

Eady said the final order to Waste4Fuel left “scope for real confusion,” in particular a paragraph, 1(viii), which read: “All waste accepted onto site is to be stored in a separate area, clearly identifiable and segregated from other wastes, specifically created for the storage of wastes accepted onto site for treatment in accordance with the terms of this order … “

Clarity was missing on the use of the term ‘waste’ and how the separation should have been implemented, the judge ruled.

Another problem concerned certain wording, of which he said: “It is almost as though this had been cut and pasted from an interim order, since it makes no sense in a final injunction.”

“I am afraid that there is too much uncertainty, as to when and how the requirement in paragraph 1(viii) was to be complied with, for it to be enforced by process of contempt.”

The EA told MRW it was considering the ruling.

A spokesperson said: “EA contractors are taking immediate action to reduce the waste stockpiled at the Waste4Fuel site in Orpington to allow our partners at London Fire Brigade safe access.

“The responsibility for fully clearing the site lies with Waste4Fuel. We are taking this rare step to reduce the immediate impact from this site on the local community.

“We understand the frustration of local residents and we will continue our action against Waste4Fuel. We are committed to working with our partners including the London Borough of Bromley to find a long-term solution.”

  • Waste4Fuel has also abandoned around 2,500 tonnes of refuse derived fuel at Chatham docks, the BBC has reported.

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