In this latest Environmental Law News Update, Charles Morgan and Christopher Badger consider prison sentences for serial flytippers, objections to the new Rivers Authorities Bill and further detail surrounding the new Environment Bill and the Joint Unit for Waste Crime.
Prison sentences for serial flytippers
A pair of serial flytippers have been sentenced to prison and a third received a suspended sentence for dumping waste on a commercial scale across Barking, Havering, Hertfordshire and Essex between 2012 and 2014. Confiscation orders to the value of £226,755 were also made by the Court.
CCTV at a site in Choats Road in Barking showed the three men, William Jones, Glenn Harper and Shaun Collard, dumping a mix of household waste, wood and textiles from a lorry with false number plates.
CCTV at another site showed Glenn Harper and Shaun Collard dumping waste at a printing works in Thurrock, Essex. Over several nights an articulated lorry was used to tip 640 tonnes of aggregate, stones, rubble, earth clay and chalk at a site in Oliver Road, costing the owners more than £120,000 to clear.
William Jones was convicted of illegally depositing and storing baled rotting waste at a site rented from Network Rail at Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire. This site cost nearly £360,000 to clear.
Further waste was dumped at a site in Abbey Road, Barking. Shaun Collard was seen dumping waste at a construction site, having been followed by EA officers. William Jones and Glenn Harper were stopped by police trailing the lorry in a Citroen van.
Finally, surveillance evidence demonstrated Glenn Harper and Shaun Collard forcing their way in to an old landfill site in Rainham, Essex, by moving concrete blocks designed to prevent access and them dumping waste on multiple occasions.
HHJ Lees, sitting at Snaresbrook Crown Court, said that the trio’s behaviour was motivated by money, with a financial cost to landowners, residents and the public purse, as well as causing environmental damage. She sentenced William Jones to 13 months imprisonment, coupled with a confiscation order for £80,000. Glenn Harper was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, with a confiscation order for £146,755. Shaun Collard was sentenced to 8 months imprisonment, suspended for 2 years, 200 hours of unpaid work, a curfew and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs.
The EA’s press release can be found here
Christopher Badger acted on behalf of the Environment Agency.
Torrent of objections to new Rivers Authorities Bill
Our blog posted on 18 February 2019 included a piece about the Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill 2019, not a measure which one would have thought particularly controversial in comparison to such measures as the Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill 2018 or indeed the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The Bill is a private member’s bill which has enjoyed cross-party support – but not from the House of Lords. In its 54th Report of Sessions 2017-19 the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee has come down on the Bill like the proverbial ton of bricks, accusing the Bill of including “delegations which, in our view, are designed to allow Ministers to create a significant public body without requiring a hybrid bill”, an approach which is described as a “ploy” and “an attempt, upon flimsy grounds, to set aside the procedures which Parliament has put in place to protect the interests of citizens who would be unfairly affected by legislation”. The body in gestation is the Somerset Rivers Authority, the unofficial creation of which and its subsequent success prompted the Bill in the first place, as our earlier piece related.
A hybrid bill (at its shortest) is one containing both public measures and private measures (e.g. HS2). The special committee procedure applicable to such bills permits participation by those private individuals most directly affected. This would not be available for a private member’s bill. “We deprecate the subversion of those procedures and the troubling precedent that it would set”, says the Committee.
At the heart of the controversy are the proposed precepting powers to be given to the new rivers authorities (Somerset being the only one in contemplation). The Committee considers that there is inadequate provision for independent scrutiny of the exercise of these powers. Instead of Ministerial powers subject to the affirmative procedure, it wants a framework created by subordinate legislation subject to the negative procedure.
The Report also savages the proposals for a new system of valuation of non-agricultural land for the purposes of drainage rates levied by internal drainage boards and associated provisions for disclosure of HMRC information, each of which contain “Henry VIII powers” described as “inappropriate”.
Whilst this constitutional spat is unlikely to depose Brexit from the headlines, it is a fascinating example of democracy in action and a reminder that much other business is still being painstakingly transacted in Parliament.
Update: on 10 June 2019 in its 22nd Report of Session 2017-2019 the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution lent its support to the criticisms of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee: “We agree with the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and reiterate our view that it is constitutionally inappropriate to establish public bodies through delegated powers—particularly if the purpose of doing so is to avoid the bill having to go through the hybrid bill procedure.
The form of the new Environment Bill and the Joint Unit for Waste Crime
Minutes of an Environment Agency meeting held on 16 May 2019 have been published which shed a little light on the form of the new Environment Bill. The minutes record that the Environment Bill is being developed under five main chapters. These are:
- Governance and Accountability (including Environmental Principles and Governance and 25 Year Environment Plan statutory basis and targets);
- Air quality (linked to the air quality strategy);
- Nature (including net gain, habitat mapping and planning, forestry enforcement, urban trees, conservation covenants);
- Resources and Waste (linked to the Resources and Waste strategy);
- Water (including abstraction reform, water resources management plans, wastewater management, OFWAT responsibilities, land drainage).
It is intended that the Bill will be introduced to Parliament in June or July this year. It will place the 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing. It also appears that the Bill will contain statutory environmental targets in the Governance and Accountability section. Unfortunately the minutes don’t give much of the detail away, but it will be interesting to see the extent to which these targets will be legal binding, potentially in a similar vein to the Climate Change Act 2008.
The same minutes identify that the EA has been working with the police and HMRC to develop and establish a Joint Unit for Waste Crime (“JUWC”). The JUWC will be led by the Environment Agency, chaired by the EA’s Executive Director of Operations and be overseen by a Board with a senior representative from each partner organisation. Plans for the JUWC will be presented National Police Chief Council Crime Operations Committee this month.
The minutes can be found here
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