A joint operation by the Environment Agency, Calderdale Council, Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue targeting waste sites that might pose a fire risk uncovered two sites operating illegally in Calderdale and Bradford.
Shakil Ahmed, aged 42, of Spinners Close, Halifax, Jamie Craggs, aged 34, of Sedbergh Close, Bradford; and Levi Depass, aged 35, of West Royd Road, Shipley, appeared at Bradford Crown Court on Wednesday, 12 July, after earlier pleading guilty.
Shakil Ahmed, owner of the Calderdale site, was sentenced to ten months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, 250 hours of unpaid work and was ordered to pay £2,500 in costs after operating in breach of an environmental permit and failing to comply with notices. Ahmed also had a further offence taken into consideration for offending between June 2021 and December 2022.
Jamie Craggs and Levi Depass, directors of The Tyre Waste Team Limited, were both sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, 250 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £2,500 in costs.
The Tyre Waste Team Limited was fined £10,000 fine and ordered to pay costs of £2,500.
The Court heard how the case related to two illegal waste operations involving the storage and treatment of tyres at Fairlea Mills at Luddendenfoot in Calderdale and a site at Ashley Lane, Shipley, Bradford.
Both sites were selected for inspection following a major fire in November 2020 at another waste site in Bradford that stored tyres. Due to the environmental impact of that fire, the Environment Agency, working with Calderdale Council, Bradford Council, Kirklees Council, Wakefield Council and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, launched a project to look at all other sites with exemptions to ensure the sites were in full compliance with the terms of the exemption and operating legally.
Ahmed operated a regulated facility for the storage and treatment of end-of-life vehicles at the Fairlea site. He had an environmental permit, which was in place to ensure any activity did not impact on the environment.
On the same site, The Tyre Waste Team Limited operated a waste tyre business under the provision of an exemption. An exemption allowed the company to operate its business at the site without the need for an environmental permit, provided the requirements of the exemption were followed.
The company brought waste tyres onto the Fairlea site before passing them to Shakil Ahmed for treatment.
The volume of tyres stored at the site significantly exceeded the quantity permitted and caused a significant fire risk. During the Environment Agency investigation, Shakil Ahmed was served with an enforcement notice and a suspension notice. These resulted in Shakil Ahmed being ordered to cease operating and to clear the site, which he initially failed to do.
The Tyre Waste Team Limited subsequently moved to the site in Shipley and started to import waste tyres there. The site didn’t hold an environmental permit because the activity came within an exempt activity, provided it complied with the exemption criteria, which included a limit on the quantity of waste tyres that could be stored and how they were stored. The Tyre Waste Team Limited operated outside the exemption criteria and therefore operated illegally.
It was found that the waste tyre material at the Fairlea site significantly exceeded the 40 tonnes allowed by the exemption. Due to the significant fire risk resulting from the storage of the tyres, the Environment Agency worked closely with Bradford and Calderdale Councils and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to ensure the risk was adequately managed and public safety protected.
The court heard how the quantities of tyres on site and the lack of fire breaks between piles meant that this operation posed a significant risk of fire endangering human health and could cause a risk to air and nuisance through odours due to smoke inhalation to neighbouring properties including private houses and businesses. The Shipley site was also in close proximity to the Saltaire World Heritage site.
If either site was to have caught fire, there would also have been a major effect on water quality due to the proximity of a watercourse next to each site as a result of fire water runoff, which is likely to have been highly polluting.
Since 2020 the Environment Agency has carried out over 50 site inspections at the Fairlea site, many of them in conjunction with partners. A site of this kind would usually get two visits a year.
The Environment Agency’s actions, along with those of partner agencies, have ensured that those responsible have ultimately cleared the tyres and that the sites no longer present a significant fire risk and potential pollution of air, water and land.
In mitigation, Ahmed indicated that the site was in operation since August 2015, and he misunderstood the terms of the permit. A bespoke permit was being applied for to undertake the processes at the site, and the site was now clear and in compliance. Crags and Depass indicated that they had attempted to bring the sites back into compliance. However, resources were an issue.
Following the sentencing, Ben Hocking, Environment Manager at the Environment Agency, said:
“The seriousness of this sentence sends out a message that waste crime will not be tolerated.
This case was the culmination of a joint campaign between the Environment Agency, the local councils and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to target sites where the risk of fire could have resulted in a significant impact on the environment and harm to human health. We’ll continue to work with our partners to crack down on illegal sites like this.
Waste criminals undercut legitimate business, damage our environment, and are a blight on local communities. We encourage people to report any illegal waste activity to our 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060.”
This case follows another prosecution brought against a company owned by Shakil Ahmed, Fairlea Auto and Salvage Company Limited, which was operating from the Fairlea site.
Cllr Jenny Lynn, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, said:
“The scale of punishment in this very serious case of environmental crime is a positive outcome for local residents and the whole borough. Protecting our environment and keeping our communities safe are Council priorities, and we won’t hesitate to take action against anyone who causes pollution, environmental blight and risk to the public.
Our zero-tolerance approach prompted the Council’s enforcement action against the business in 2022 when we became aware of a major fire risk on site. We immediately served a Community Protection Notice, which prohibited the site from being used and required the business to remove the tyre and other waste to mitigate the fire risk. This wasn’t without challenge, and the Council had no choice but to take the company to court for multiple breaches of the Notice, which resulted in a significant fine and costs award. This prompt action, alongside the work of the Environment Agency and the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, reduced the fire risk significantly.
Thank you to the local community for their ‘eyes and ears’ in supporting our enforcement action, to the Council teams for their persistent visits to the site and determination to move the legal cases forward, and to all our partner organisations for helping to bring the wrongdoers to justice.
We will continue to carefully monitor the site to ensure it operates in line with the Community Protection Notice that is still in place, to hopefully stop any repeat activity that is completely unacceptable as we continue to live in a climate emergency.”