The Environment Agency (EA) shut down 19 high-risk illegal waste sites during the past year but has failed to hit its target for 2016-17.
In its annual report, the EA said the number of high-risk sites fell 8% between 2015-16 and 2016-17, from 272 to 253. The EA’s own target for 2016-17 was 242.
It said the reduction was in part because of the introduction of a national prevention and disruption team, which tried new enforcement techniques for sites that had been in existence for more than two years.
Fifty-four per cent of new high-risk illegal sites were also stopped within 90 days, following a renewed focus on providing guidance and “highlighting the consequences of continuing to trade illegally”.
The EA’s target is more modest than in the previous year, when it aimed to reduce 272 high-risk illegal sites to 206. The number last year in fact grew to 273 sites.
Sir James Bevan, EA chief executive, said: “Illegal waste operations continue to be a blight on our communities. We have been shutting them down country-wide, ending the nightmare people experience from their daily impact: fire, dust, noise and smell.
“This work not only protects the environment and people from further harm but helps to benefit legitimate business. Fighting waste crime will remain a high priority for us.”
The annual report also revealed a significant improvement at landfill sites, while the number of serious and significant pollution incidents is now at the lowest level since 2011.
The EA said this was a result of focusing on the ‘top five’ regulatory sectors, which includes landfill and non-hazardous waste.
The report said: “We have seen significant improvements in the performance of the landfill sector through our proactive compliance work. This included targeted audits of landfill gas management systems to ensure operators were following the industry code of best practice.
”We’ve also taken a more rigorous approach to the regulation of leachate management, with a consistent approach to compliance assessment and enforcement. As a result, we are considering removing landfill from the ‘top five’ sectors.”