News

A trio of waste criminals have been given prison sentences and told to pay back nearly £250,000 after fly-tipping "on a commercial scale".

The men from East London and Essex, were convicted of dumping hundreds of tonnes of waste at several locations across Barking, Havering, Hertfordshire and Essex between 2012 and 2014.

Investigators from the Environment Agency first discovered the men had broken into a yard in Choats Road in Barking in October 2012. CCTV showed the three men dumping a mix of household waste, wood and textiles from a lorry with false number plates. There was so much waste on board, it was spilling out onto the ground.

Then on CCTV, the gang were captured the following month at a printing works at Thurrock in Essex. Over several nights, they used an articulated lorry to tip 640 tonnes of aggregate such as stones, rubble, earth, clay and chalk at the site in Oliver Road, costing the landowners more than £120,000 to clear.

In January 2013, one of the men rented a yard from Network Rail close to the M25, at Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire. Environment Agency officers later found the site was filled with rotting waste. This highly-organised criminality saw the waste wrapped in bales of black plastic. There has never been any suggestion Network Rail knew anything about the criminal activity on their land.

In October 2013, in Barking, Environment Agency investigators pursued a lorry driven by one of the men between addresses either side of the A13. He was seen dumping more aggregate at a building site in Abbey Road, soon joined by the other two men in a van.

The criminals were arrested by Essex Police back on the A13 at the Environment Agency's request. One man told the police he was just test-driving the lorry.

The final act of the 18-months of dumping waste illegally took place with a series of visits to a former landfill site at Rainham in Essex in May 2014. The men were identified by Environment Agency officers at the facility, using a lorry to move concrete blocks designed to prevent access. One man was seen dumping mixed waste there on multiple occasions.

Emma Viner, area enforcement manager for the Environment Agency said that the men "had no concern for the cost to the landowners or taxpayers, less still, the harm dumping hundreds of tonnes of waste would have on the environment. The highly-organised operation broke the law on a commercial scale, but that same law caught up with them in the end".

"The prison sentences laid down in court by the judge show crime does not pay, also proven by more than £200,000 recovered from the men in a proceeds of crime order or court costs".

At Snaresbrook Crown Court on 22 May 2019 the Judge said that the trio's criminal behaviour was motivated by money, with a financial cost to landowners, residents and the public as well as causing environmental damage. She sentenced the:

  • first man to 13 months in prison, ordering him to pay back £80,000 in proceeds of crime inside 12 weeks, or have his jail time extended by 18 months;
  • second man to a custodial sentence of 12 months, to pay back £146,755 within 12 weeks or face an additional 24 months in prison;
  • third man to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, 200 hours of unpaid work and a curfew in force for 12 weeks. The Environment Agency was awarded costs from the third man of £10,000.

All three men pleaded guilty to a combination of counts of breaching environmental law.

Coal-free record for Britain
Published: 03 Jun 2019

Britain has hit a new record for coal-free energy generation. From 17 May 2019 coal was not used to generate any electricity in Britain for two weeks - this is the longest Britain has been 'coal-free' since the 1990s.

In this two week period, gas made up nearly 40% of Britain's electricity generation, with nuclear at 20%, wind 13%, and other sources accounting for the remainder.

The director of the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), Fintan Slye, said that such coal-free periods would be a new normal.

He commented: "As more and more renewables come onto the system, we're seeing things progress at an astonishing rate. 2018 was our greenest year to date, and so far, 2019 looks like it has the potential to beat it."

Mr Slye also confirmed the British record for solar power in May, when on 14 May Britain generated a quarter of its energy from solar power.

Government plans are in place to phase out UK coal-fired plants by 2025 in order to reduce carbon emission, however Mr Slye noted there was still a lot of work to do.

The Urban Technology Framework has identified 12 current trends that will shape hubs and help developers and architects to deliver future cities.

In the framework, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) arranges the 12 trends into the three themes they claim will transform cities:

  • digital technologies;
  • urban land factors;
  • business models.

The ULI says these must be considered in every future plan to consider how they will affect communities, institutions, buildings and the public realm.

Key tech trends such as 3D printing can transform the way building takes place, and the Internet of Things (IoT) progressing smart buildings from stationary structures to machines. The ULI says digitalisation will transform business models, causing the existing sharing economy to extend further, to houses, cars and clothes.

Digital technologies, the ULI explains, will transform the way people interact with and in cities, while urban land factors create the context that digital technologies need to work in. These can be people, organisations, scale of development and stage of design.

The ULI says property developers and architects have the opportunity to integrate technologies in design to respond to changes in the way people work or travel.

Ed Parham, co-chair of the ULI UK Tech Forum and associate at Space Syntac, said "the ULI Urban Technology Framework illustrates how technology intersects with our urban areas and aims to provide a platform to understand how we shape our cities. From economic opportunities to social benefits, there are ever-increasing possibilities for tech advancements and with our framework, urban professionals can better understand how digital technologies could improve our cities and create value for the people that are part of them".

For more information on this subject, see:

The Government published this week the first report on the progress of the implementation of the landmark 25 Year Environment Plan. According to the report in the first year of the plan, which launched in January 2018, around 90% of its actions have been delivered or are being progressed.

The plan boasts the Government's achievements in the last 12 months, which include:

  • cutting down on plastic waste by implementing bans on plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers, as well as extending the 5p plastic bag charge;
  • overhauling the waste system with a comprehensive Resources and Waste Strategy;
  • laying the Agriculture Bill before Parliament to introduce a fairer and more sustainable system of environmental land management;
  • publishing a Clean Air Strategy which sets out ambitious plans to cut air pollution through more coherent regulatory framework and stronger powers to local authorities to control the major sources of air pollution;
  • developing the first Environment Bill in 20 years;
  • safeguarding forests and woodlands by implementing plans to create the Northern Forest and appointing a Tree Champion;
  • protecting precious wildlife habitats by launching a review to strengthen and enhance England's National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs);
  • protecting the marine environment by launching the Fisheries Bill, and introducing one of the world's toughest bans on microbeads;
  • consulting on the creation of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones; and
  • protecting wildlife and helping to curb illegal wildlife trade by introducing an ivory ban and hosting the global Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London.

The Environment minister Thérèse Coffey said:

"Through our landmark 25 Year Environment Plan and upcoming Environment Bill, we are committed to bold action on tackling plastic waste, reforming farming, protecting our landscapes and boosting wildlife. While progress is encouraging, we know there is still more to do".

"As the future stewards of the environment, our children and young people have a crucial role to play in protecting our precious natural world. That is why, in this Year of Green Action, we are involving young people in helping shape our shared future".

This review comes a few days after a new report from the European Commission was published on the UK's implementation of the EU environmental policy and law across different sectors and administrations.

That report found that while there are certain improvements, such as resource efficiency and bold plans for long-term improvements, there are still major environmental issues remaining. These problems include nitrate pollution of water from agriculture, unacceptable air pollution in urban areas, lack of protection for offshore bird habitats and little co-operation between devolved governments on environmental issues.

Also, the first reviews of the draft Environment Bill are not great, with many MPs arguing that it fails to address many challenges such as climate change, with little power and budget given to the new Office for Environmental Protection, ultimately putting the environment at the mercy of the ruling Government.

For more information on this subject, see:

Guidance on 2020 Fgas ban published
Published: 31 May 2019

A new guidance document has been published which aims to help businesses that use refrigeration or freezer units using hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) as refrigerants prepare for the upcoming ban on the use of HFCs with a global warming potential (GWP) greater than 2500, which will come into force on 1 January 2020.

The UK and EU have published legislation that aim to phase out the use of HFCs by 79% by 2030. The ban affects refrigeration systems containing HFCs equivalent to over 40 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Regulation (EU) 517/2014 on fluorinated greenhouse gases is enforced by the:

  • Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations SI 2015/310, in England, Scotland and Wales; and
  • Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2015/425, in Northern Ireland.

The new ban will apply to the following units:

  • small hermetically sealed systems, such as ice-cream freezers, bottle coolers, stand-alone retail displays, that typically contain between 0.1 and 0.5 kg of refrigerant;
  • condensing units, such as commercial display cabinets, blast chillers and freezers used in small shops, convenience stores and food service, that typically contain between 2 and 10kg of refrigerant; and
  • central pack systems used in supermarkets and other large stores, which usually contain more than 100kg of refrigerant.

This guidance provides information on what actions need to be taken to be in compliance with the new requirements in legislation, including calculating the carbon dioxide equivalent quantity of an F-gas and adopting alternative measures, such as switching to low GWP refrigerants, as well as information on help with the cost of replacing the refrigeration system in the form of the Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme and SME Loan Scheme in Scotland.

For more information, see:

Gas fitter jailed
Published: 30 May 2019

A self-employed gas fitter has been jailed for carrying out unsafe gas work and pretending to be Gas Safe registered.

Sheffield Magistrates Court heard how Marc Murrie misled homeowners on numerous occasions by claiming to be Gas Safe registered when he wasn't. Between October 2013 and September 2014 he carried out gas work in two properties in West Yorkshire while not a member of a class of person approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Several defects were found on each gas installation, including the use of inappropriate gas fittings and defective flue joints, all of which posed safety risks for the homeowners. Mr Murrie was subsequently served with a Prohibition Notice, banning him from carrying out any further gas work unless he completed appropriate qualifications and registered with the Gas Safe Register.

A HSE investigation discovered that he continued to work between April 2016 and July 2016, where again defects were found on the gas work he carried out after the homeowners complained to the Gas Safe Register.

Mr Murrie was sentenced to 12 months in prison, after pleading guilty to 10 offences under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations SI 1998/2451 and one offence under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Jane Fox commented: "Mr Murrie undertook gas work which he knew he was not registered to do. Some of that work was unsafe and it was fortunate that no one was harmed."

"All gas work must be done by registered Gas Safe engineers to ensure the highest standards are met to prevent injury and loss of life."

"The public should always ask to see the gas engineer’s identification and check the registration number here (www.gassaferegister.co.uk) or ring the Gas Safe Register customer helpline 0800 408 5500".


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