Brothers receive prison terms and director bans for multiple illegal waste sites

November 21, 2023

Operators of a quarry near Stevenage have been given prison sentences after storing and burying enough illegal waste to fill the Royal Albert Hall nearly three times over.

The Environment Agency prosecuted former teacher Liam Winters and his brother, Mark Winters, both from Warwickshire, for the unlawful disposal of large quantities of household and business waste at Codicote Quarry, off the A1, for almost three years.

Liam Winters was handed a 17-month prison term by St Albans crown court, while Mark Winters, with links to the Republic of Ireland, was sentenced to 12 months inside, suspended for two years. The court also banned the brothers as company directors for eight years.

Judge Caroline Wigin heard Codicote Quarry had a permit to treat and store a small amount of soil waste but not hold it in huge quantities. The quarry went beyond what was authorised by the Environment Agency.

The suspect material was predominately household, commercial and industrial waste, but also electrical items, car parts, furniture, food packaging, wood and metal. In all, at least 200,000 cubic metres of banned and potentially harmful material.

The men, directors of Codicote Quarry Ltd, showed a flagrant disregard for the law and the effect of their business on the environment.

The illegal disposal means the site will need monitoring for many years to minimise the risk of polluting the River Mimram and groundwater sources as the quarry was not set up for landfill.

Barry Russell, environment manager for the Environment Agency in Hertfordshire, said: “We hope that prison for Liam Winters and a suspended term for Mark Winters sends out a strong message that we will prosecute waste site operators who do not follow the rules for disposal.

“The operation of an illegal waste site without regard for the environment and the law has the potential to harm our natural resources, blight communities and undermine the legitimate businesses who do stick to the law.”

Officers from the Environment Agency questioned the brothers in 2017 about the amount of waste the quarry was holding.

With support from Hertfordshire County Council, countless on-site checks followed to get the operators to comply with the law, but the waste piles grew and began to decompose.

As well as mountains of waste, the pair were also burying it, more than 12 metres deep in places, under a layer of chalk. By November 2017, with the quarry holding so much illegal and contaminated waste, the Environment Agency suspended the site’s permit.

Officers later issued two notices aimed at getting the waste removed, but the men appeared to show no regard for authority and none of it was taken away, as required by the Environment Agency.

Liam Winters’ prison sentence also relates to illegal waste storage at two more locations in Hertfordshire.

The 46-year-old, of High Street, Hillmorton, Rugby, and a third man, Nicholas Bramwell, admitted allowing plastic, wood, metal, packaging, and soil to be buried illegally.

The waste at Anstey Quarry, near Royston, reached 20 metres into the sky, as high as five buses on top of each other, while material at Nuthampstead shooting ground was hidden under a landscaped area.

Bramwell, now 44, of Shepherds Close, Royston, was fined £1,450 in June last year and ordered to pay £8,000 towards the Environment Agency’s costs and a victim surcharge of £120.

Mark Winters, 49, latterly of Oxford Street, Rugby, but living at Bangor Erris in County Mayo when he surrendered, will also have to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

At separate hearings in February this year, the brothers admitted four identical charges amounting to allowing or being involved in accepting waste and storing it at Codicote Quarry between January 2015 and November 2017. This was either outside the conditions of the site’s Environment Agency’s permit, or with no permit at all. They were also charged for ignoring the suspension notice to stop operations.

The Environment Agency prosecuted the pair under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 and the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

At the hearing on 20 October, it was decided that any award of costs or a confiscation order against the men and Codicote Quarry Ltd will be considered at a later date.

This is valid as of 21st November 2023.

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