Illegally dumping waste in a nature reserve has cost a fly-tipper more than £1,000.
Steven Richard Mealin left large quantities of garden and general waste in the Limekiln Gill area of Horden, near Peterlee, on two occasions last summer.
Located within the Durham Coastal Special Area of Conservation, Limekiln Gill is a national nature reserve but has sadly become a fly-tipping hotspot in recent years due to its isolated location.
Durham County Council neighbourhood wardens regularly patrol the site, which is also covered by CCTV, as part of the anti-fly-tipping campaign Operation Stop It!
Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court heard a warden discovered garden and general waste near the car park on August 26 last year. CCTV footage showed three men unloading the waste from a silver van.
When the warden returned to the same spot on September 7, more waste had been left there, with CCTV footage revealing the two people responsible had used the same van.
The vehicle was registered to Mealin at his father’s address in Staindrop Street, Hartlepool.
The warden attempted to contact Mealin on numerous occasions but received no reply. He then issued a legal notice requesting Mealin attend an interview within 14 days but again no response was received. Mealin’s failure to engage with the warden meant the other men involved could not be identified.
The 35-year-old pleaded guilty to two charges of depositing controlled waste without a permit and a further charge of failing to assist an authorised person to conduct a fly-tipping investigation.
In mitigation, Mealin said he lived with his father, who is partly dependent on him, and had removed the waste as a favour for a friend. Magistrates noted his early guilty plea.
He was fined £360 and was ordered to pay costs of £642.79 and a £36 victim surcharge.
Speaking after the hearing, Ian Hoult, the council’s neighbourhood protection manager, said: “This prosecution demonstrates that fly tipping will not be tolerated in County Durham.
“The courts take a particularly dim view when it occurs in nature reserves like Limekiln Gill.
“Water in the gill runs into neighbouring national nature reserves and then into the sea, meaning there is a serious risk of pollution. When green waste is deposited, there is also a risk of invasive species gaining a foothold, which could restrict the growth of native species.”
Operation Stop It! is a joint campaign run by the council, Durham Police, the Environment Agency and Crimestoppers. It has led to a drop in incidents across the county.