The prison sentence was suspended for two years and Phipps has been ordered to remove the waste from the farm in four stages by 30 Jan 2014. He was also told to pay a contribution of £20,000 towards prosecution costs.
Michelins Farm, Rayleigh did not have a waste permit nor planning permission to operate the site, Chelmsford Crown Court heard today (Tues).
The site was run without an environmental permit from April 2008-11.
Mr Mark Watson, prosecuting for the Environment Agency and Rochford District Council, said two enforcement notices had been served by the council on Phipps in 2002 for breaches of planning control at Michelins Farm.
He was told to stop storing tyres, vehicles, waste and caravans and to remove them. A separate notice required the removal of a lorry back and three mobile buildings. Since then only the mobile buildings have been removed.
The farm is on green belt land and was within a Landscape Improvement Area, the court was told.
Mr Watson said that between December 2009 and June 2010 Essex County Fire Service attended 35 fires at Michelins Farm, mostly at night when thick black smoke was seen coming from the land.
Plastics, tyres, building materials and cylinders were seen in the fires. The fire service was concerned about the risk to adjoining highways, railways and power supplies.
Environment Agency officers carried out covert surveillance in May 2010 and saw lorries taking waste into the site and at the same time saw smoke regularly coming from the farm.
Officers also went to the farm with police in June following a large fire with a plume of black smoke that could be seen from the A127.
“There was evidence that scrap metal had been removed from the fires and that other waste had been burned in breach of both environmental and planning rules,” he said.
Long windrows of burned material were found at the site as well as electrical, construction and plastic waste.
Phipps was arrested and questioned on 3 June 2010 and further interviewed on 19 July 2010 but offered no comment to questions, Mr Watson told the court.
Waste was still being stored and burned at the farm six months later despite several letters from the council about complying with the enforcement notices.
In mitigation, Mr Leon Kazakos accepted that his client Phipps had developed an entrenched view towards the authorities.
Judge David Turner QC said that although Phipps was an old age pensioner with a limited income, the site had a reasonably significant value and by selling it he would be able to raise the money needed to pay the fines and costs.
In sentencing Phipps, the judge said he had flouted environmental and planning law to a significant degree and for a considerable time and said that the pre-sentence report showed a lack of real acceptance of the situation. “He took an entrenched position and was a cantankerous individual.”
After the hearing Environment Agency officer Kelly Short said: “From photographs it is apparent that significant amounts of waste were taken onto site, stored, sorted and burned. The smoke caused a nuisance and in some cases could have harmed people’s health.
“Phipps knew he needed a permit to run the site but ignored our advice for years.”
“We continue to work closely with Rochford District Council to stop this site operating illegally.”
Rochford District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation, Councillor Keith Hudson said: “Whilst the Council sees legal action as a last resort it will not stand for any breaches of planning regulations. Mr Phipps continued to ignore the planning enforcement notices issued which led to the joint prosecution between Rochford District Council and the Environment Agency.
“We have demonstrated by the action that we have taken that Rochford District Council will defend the rights of all our residents to be able to enjoy their homes and the district in which they live. I believe that the result of this prosecution sends a clear and concise message that this Council will do all that is necessary to ensure the continuing peace and happiness of our residents by putting a stop to the inappropriate actions of a small minority of people who ignore the laws the land.”
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