Fineshade skip operator who ran 'shocking' illegal waste site facing bill of £750,000

He's been ordered to clear the land by January

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 2:29 pm
The illegal waste site.
The illegal waste site.

A skip operator who stockpiled waste near Fineshade Wood and carried on burning it illegally despite his arrests is facing a bill of more than £750,000.

Stephen Lack, 68, was locked up for 18 months earlier this year after disregarding the law having committed waste offences spanning a decade

Lack - trading under the name Abbey Skips - had repeatedly stockpiled waste on a site at Monkton Sidings without the necessary permits that would have ensured precautions were taken to protect people and nature from harm.

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The illegal waste site.

Here he burned and buried waste rather than disposing of it lawfully at authorised waste sites. These actions risked contaminating nearby woods and farmland, caused odours and toxic smoke, and could have attracted large quantities of flies and vermin.

And this week, appearing from custody, he was given a remediation order to clear the land where the offences took place by January 2022. This could, according to the Environment Agency, cost a further £750,000.

Lack, who admitted breaching environmental laws, was also ordered to pay £12,500 costs plus a £140 victim surcharge by Northampton Crown Court.

Yvonne Daly, environment manager at the Environment Agency, said: “It’s our job to regulate waste activity to make sure it doesn’t put people or the environment at risk.

“This case is a shocking example of an individual driven by profit blatantly ignoring their responsibilities, putting people and nature in harm’s way, and attempting to undercut legitimate businesses.

“The custodial sentence along with significant costs reflects the seriousness of the crime, and we hope it serves as a warning to others - we won’t hesitate to take action against those flout the rules.”

Lack did initially have a permit to run the waste site in 2009, but a year later, he was already in court for illegally burning waste, resulting in noxious fumes and odours. Despite being ordered to pay thousands in fines and costs, he continued to offend. The permit was revoked in 2011 and Lack was ordered to clear the site by the following spring.

When officers followed up in March 2012, it appeared Lack was complying. But five years later complaints started pouring in from the local community. Environment Agency officers responded and found waste was again being stored and burnt on the site.

Again Lack was warned to stop these activities – advice he ignored – and environment officers soon discovered he was also storing a further 1,000 tonnes of waste at a second site at Easton on the Hill.

Lack had been given a six-month suspended sentence in 2019 for disregarding the law, despite being warned repeatedly by Environment Agency officers about his activities.

However, his illegal burning activities increased during lockdown when officers saw multiple skips arrive full of tyres, metal and other waste – and caught Lack himself operating the machinery.

Anyone who suspects illegal waste activity is reminded to report it to our 24-hour hotline by calling 0800 80 70 60, or anonymously contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.