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Lawyer backs councils in DIY waste dispute

A lawyer has backed councils that have introduced charges for DIY waste disposal, despite a Government view that local authorities were doing so against “clear guidance”.

In recent months, about 10 local authorities have introduced charges for materials such as plasterboard and soil at their household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs), including Hampshire, Leicestershire and North Yorkshire county councils.

But in October, in response to an MRW query, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) pledged to “take action” against councils that introduced such charges.

A DCLG spokesperson had said: “We are determined to boost recycling, and that is why we have brought in legislation to stop councils charging residents for household waste. Guidance is clear that it should include any household waste from DIY.”

Following these comments, Hampshire County Council postponed further changes to its HWRC provision, calling for further clarity from the Government. It has not, however, withdrawn the charges it introduced on 1 October.

This week Derbyshire echoed Hampshire’s call for more certainty on the situation, saying it is still considering introducing HWRC charges for DIY waste.

Now partner at law firm Burges Salmon, Nick Churchward, has joined the debate, saying regulations do not clearly distinguish between householder DIY waste and materials produced by a builder at a domestic property.

Churchward told MRW the guidance to which the DCLG was referring may not be strong enough to change councils’ behaviour.

WRAP’s HWRC Guide, published in January, advises councils that DIY waste resulting “from work a householder would normally carry out” is classed as household waste but Churchward says this is guidance and not a statutory requirement.

“The waste disposal authorities are doing the right thing and looking at the detail of Controlled Waste Regulations 2012,” he said.

“I imagine they are trying to balance competing pressures for their resources. Paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 to the regulations specifies that waste from construction, improvement, repair, alteration or demolition works, including preparatory works, is to be treated as industrial waste (and not household waste) ‘notwithstanding the place where it is produced’.

“As such they are levying a charge for disposal of such waste. The regulations do not clearly distinguish waste produced by a householder doing DIY (which the DCLG says should be exempt from charging) from waste produced by a builder (which few would argue should be exempt from disposal charges) at the same domestic property.”

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