Two former directors of Lawrence Skip Hire Ltd were given suspended prison sentences and community punishment orders at Worcester Crown Court last week (Thursday 4 July 2019).
The court heard that waste management failures at the company led to 2 major fires and a pollution incident categorised by court sentencing guidelines as being at the highest level.
David Lawrence, 52, of Seymour Road, Kidderminster was the company operations director and designated technically competent manager. He was sentenced to 9 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 2 years, and ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work.
Andrew Gibson, 55, of Wood Lane, Lichfield, was the company chairman and sales director. He was sentenced to 4 and a half months imprisonment, suspended for 2 years, and ordered to complete 90 hours of unpaid work.
The directors ran a waste recycling facility under the trading name of Lawrences Recycling and Waste Management Ltd at The Forge, Stourport Road, in Kidderminster, under an environmental permit. They claimed the site was the largest indoor waste management facility in Europe.
History of the site
Between August 2012 and December 2012, the company stored excessive quantities of waste at the site in breach of the environmental permit, despite warnings given to the company by the Environment Agency. These failures to properly assess the risk of fire and manage the waste appropriately on the site culminated in a serious fire, when waste self combusted at the company premises in December 2012.
In spite of that fire and further warnings from the Environment Agency and Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, the company continued to accept and store thousands of tonnes of waste to avoid the cost of disposal and in a way that put the environment at risk. These further failures led to a second fire at the site in June 2013.
The fire in December 2012 burned for nearly a week. The fire in June 2013 burned for 8 weeks and resulted in a major impact to the environment and local community. The smoke had a significant impact on air quality and affected the operation of businesses around the site. Water used to fight the fire was contaminated by the burning waste and it flowed into the nearby Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. The contaminated water that entered the canal in June 2013 resulted in the deaths of 3,000 fish and threatened drinking water supplies. Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service described the fires as 2 of the biggest firefighting operations it had ever had to deal with.