Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has welcomed the sentences handed down today (27 October) to Lee and David Averies.
This comes after brothers Lee and David Averies were spared jail, but given fines and suspended sentences after their waste site in Swindon burned for two months.
Both brothers appeared at Swindon Crown Court, having pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing on 30 September to breaching environmental regulations at their two Swindon waste sites – Swindon Skips Ltd, at Brindley Close, and Averies Recycling Swindon Ltd, at Marshgate.
In addition, Lee Averies and Calne Aggregate Holdings Ltd (of which Lee Averies is a director) pleaded guilty to breaching environmental regulations at their site in Calne.
Today the judge gave Lee Averies a 12 month suspended sentence saying prison was ‘for serious villains’ and Averies was not one. He told him ‘You have many talents’.
His brother David Averies was fined £4,208 and £50k costs. He has been suspended from being a director of a company for three years.
The extinguishing effort cost around £500,000.
There were significant fires at both Swindon sites – at Brindley Close in November 2013, and at Marshgate in July 2014 – which required the attendance of Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service (now Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service) for a considerable time.
In fact, firefighters stayed on scene at Marshgate for 57 days, making it the longest-lasting incident in the Service’s history.
Area Manager Ian Jeary said: “Both fires in Swindon had a significant impact on the local communities due to the acrid smoke, and both could have been avoided had the site owners complied with the requirements of their Environment Agency permits.
“The Marshgate fire was an extraordinary incident, impacting on the whole of the Fire and Rescue Service and requiring an unprecedented attendance on scene. It was extremely frustrating to see the blaze continuing to burn when we had identified at the very outset what would be required to allow us to put it out.”
Due to the significant amounts of waste stored at Marshgate, there was not room for effective firefighting to be carried out. Despite requests to Averies Recycling Swindon Ltd to clear part of the site, followed by enforcement notices from the Environment Agency for the same purpose, waste was only moved once the EA was able to appoint contractors to remove some 3,000 tonnes of waste to landfill.
Mr Jeary said: “Dealing with this fire was a partnership effort between us, the Environment Agency, Swindon Borough Council and others. We all had the same commitment to resolving the incident as quickly as possible and, while it did take longer than many people would have liked, we were successful and we have seen justice being delivered by today’s sentencing, which rightly reflects the severity of the offences and the impact on others.
Hopefully this will send a warning that criminal behaviour without thought or care to local communities will not go unpunished.
“I would once again like to thank the local community for its support and forbearance during what was undoubtedly a difficult and often unpleasant time for them. All of the agencies have sought to learn lessons from this fire, and we are already carrying out joint visits with the Environment Agency to sites such as Marshgate to try and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”