The case was brought by the Environment Agency. It was apparent the fire had contained more than just clean wood and that a large quantity of skip waste had been illegally burnt.
A member of the public reported a large fire on 5 November 2010 at a waste site at Hayedown, Tavistock. Agency officers visited the site and spoke to the operator, Roger Sparling, who claimed the bonfire was a traditional celebration for his staff and family. Agency officers told him that the size of the fire was ‘excessive’.
Mr Sparling runs a waste transfer station that adjoins an old landfill that he uses to store waste materials awaiting recycling.
Officers found the remains of a very large fire measuring approximately 12m across on the site of the old landfill. The centre of the fire was still smouldering and contained the partially burnt remains of various waste including metal cans, melted glass, tyres and a mattress. Flames from the fire were reported to be higher than a 6m- to 8m-high earth bund surrounding the landfill. Unusually for a Guy Fawkes bonfire, there were no fireworks.
“There is nothing wrong with burning clean wood on Bonfire Night, but when November 5 is used as an excuse to get rid of unwanted waste materials that have the potential to cause harm to human health and the environment, we won’t hesitate to prosecute,” said Sarah Taylor for the Environment Agency. “People paid good money to Mr Sparling to dispose of their waste safely and he should have done so and not just set fire to it.”
Appearing before Plymouth magistrates, Roger Sparling of Hayedown, Tavistock, Devon was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £2,302 costs after pleading guilty to illegally disposing of waste by burning, an offence under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.