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Jail term for illegal waste business owner

16 August 2023

THE OWNER of a skip-hire company in north Kent has been convicted after the harmful way he handled waste on the banks of the river Thames.

Jack Selby is starting an 8-month suspended prison sentence for running an unlicensed waste treatment operation at Erith that caught fire and threatened the area from flooding. A court then ordered the site be closed at the request of the Environment Agency.

The 36-year-old, of Water Lane, Headcorn, near Ashford, was sole director of Selbys Ltd. The company took in construction, demolition and household waste in rented premises in Maypole Crescent on the Darent Industrial Estate for 11 months across 2021 and 2022.

Another of Selby’s companies, M&R Skip Hire, held an environmental permit there before being wound up. An earlier suspension notice served on M&R for environmental concerns had the site on the Environment Agency’s radar.

Officers later found out Selbys, the new firm, was touting for custom on Facebook, with the advert falsely claiming the business was legitimate.

After believing Selby was handling waste illegally on the industrial estate in late 2020, investigators made a series of visits to confirm their suspicions.

They found the site stacked with large piles of waste like wood and plastic, along with a significant amount of crushed waste, known as trommel fines.

Matt Higginson, an environment manager for the Environment Agency in south London and Kent said, "Jack Selby broke the law for financial gain. Not only did he charge customers but treated waste illegally. He also skipped fees for managing a lawful waste operation.

"There were several implications from his and his company’s operation – the risk of air pollution from the scale of the business, a poor understanding of fire-risk from how the waste was stored, and the damage to the flood embankment protecting riverside businesses.

"Selby’s suspended jail term must serve as a strong reminder to everyone in the waste industry, from companies to individuals, to operate within the law."

The size of the waste mountains at Maypole Crescent caused the aggregate to spill over onto the adjoining flood defence.

The Environment Agency later said the weight of the waste on the embankment could have meant a ‘realistic risk’ of it failing, that might have led to evacuation of the entire industrial estate in the event of a flood. The defence provided flood protection from the rivers Thames and Darent that ran alongside the industrial units.

Officers also found evidence Selbys was burning waste. In February last year, some of it caught fire by itself, leading to London Fire Brigade spending a day putting the flames out. Like the flood-risk, the fire could have had major consequences for local people.

The same month, investigators gained a restriction order from a court that closed the site, based on their concerns about the environmental damage Selby’s business was causing through excess dust, and worries about the fire-risk and damage to the flood defence.

Judge Sarah Whitehouse KC sentenced Selby at Woolwich crown court on 8 August to 8 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, 60 hours of unpaid work and a victim surcharge of £156. No costs were awarded against Selby.

He admitted at an earlier hearing to operating a waste facility at Unit 15, Maypole Crescent, on Darent Industrial Estate, in Erith, between 10 March 2021 and 13 February 2022, contrary to regulations 38 (1) and 12 (1) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.