Trago Mills fined £185k for dumping waste

29th September 2011


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  • Retail and wholesale ,
  • Corporate fine ,
  • Prosecution ,
  • Environment agencies

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IEMA

Well-known west country firm, Trago Mills, has been ordered to pay fines of £185,000 after illegally tipping thousands of tonnes of waste in the Devonshire countryside to save money.

The company, which owns three large discount outlets with leisure facilities in the south west and a fourth store in Wales, dumped more than 6,000 tonnes of waste, including hazardous materials such as asbestos and chemicals in what magistrates described as a reckless breach of waste regulations.

In 2009, Environment Agency inspectors discovered the firm had illegal landfills on land at its out-of-town shopping complexes near Newton Abbot and Liskeard. At the Newton Abbot store, inspectors found two dump sites where Trago Mills staff had thrown unsold stock and discarded equipment, alongside a mix of waste including plastic, concrete, electrical goods, pots of paints, chemicals and 200 sheets of asbestos.

Stockpiles of waste wood, rubble and packaging were also found in a valley near the River Fowey on land belonging to Trago Mills’ Liskeard site along with evidence of the illegal burning of waste. Torquay Magistrates Court heard how inspectors on a second visit discovered an area of 20m x 10m where waste including tyres and plastics had been burned and how in places the ash reached waist height.

During the hearing Chris Rodgers, chair of the bench of magistrates, said it was unacceptable that the firm’s senior management did not know how waste was being disposed at the sites.

“These offences were a reckless breach of the law and not an isolated lapse,” said Rodgers in passing sentencing.

Dave Brogden, for the EA, confirmed: “From our investigations it was clear these illegal operations had taken place over a lengthy period of time. The company had recycling schemes in place, but avoided costs by illegal dumping.”

The company, which made a pre-tax profit of £4 million in 2008, pleaded guilty to five offences of illegally depositing and disposing of waste under the Environment Protection Act 1990, with two relating to the disposal of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health.

“Trago Mills uses its location in the unspoilt Deon countryside to market its out-of-town stores and leisure parks. You would think such a company would do all it could to protect these locations. Instead, it dumped thousands of tonnes of waste and showed an unacceptable disregard for the environment,” said Brogden.

A spokesperson for Trago Mills reacted to the sentencing saying the firm was disappointed that the EA had decided to prosecute for the incident at its Newton Abbot superstore.

“The company’s board of directors, who are based at their Liskeard head offices, were unaware that the established waste disposal protocols had been deviated from under a senior manager who is no longer with the company,” he said.

“Once the issue had been identified, Trago Mills management cooperated assiduously with the EA and at enormous cost in order to restore the site. Trago Mills implemented a detailed programme of works upon which the senior EA officer dealing with the case highly commended, and it is understood the strenuous measures undertaken are to form the benchmark for future cases.”

The business spent months cleaning up the Newton Abbot site with the help of the EA and spent almost £500,000.

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