Kirklees Council wants to recoup some of the £1.1 million cost of cleaning up an illegal tip site in Lockwood.
Last week Sam Hunter and his mother Jacinta Hunter were convicted over the massive waste pile in Queens Mill Road which burst into flames in 2016 and burned for weeks.
During the hearing at Leeds Crown Court it was revealed for the first time that the cost of clearing the site had cost Kirklees council taxpayers a staggering £1.1 million.
The council said around 8,000 tonnes of waste had been removed during that operation.
Sam Hunter and his mother, who operated the tip site known as Scotland Yard until June 2016 when it changed hands, were found to have repeatedly breached an environmental permit from the Environment Agency.
It was estimated the company run by the mother and son – Hunter Group (Yorkshire) Ltd, also known as Sam H Services Ltd – charged around £120 per tonne for waste to be tipped at their site.
They continued to accept waste until the site was literally full to bursting, pushing against a perimeter fence which was broken in two places.
The compacted waste was rotting and steaming and West Yorkshire Fire Service reported it as a fire risk. In August 2016 a fire did break out and it continued smouldering for weeks, causing huge disruption to nearby homes and businesses.
In September 2016, the council went to Huddersfield County Court in an attempt to force Sam Hunter to pay to clean up the site.
That wasn’t successful but the judge said: “If the council is to clean it up, somebody has to pay for that. I don’t think it’s right that the taxpayers of Kirklees should pay for that.”
Sam Hunter made his feelings clear outside the court. When asked by a Huddersfield Examiner reporter if he was going to clean up the mess, his response was a two-fingered gesture.
In March 2017 Kirklees Council set about clearing the site and it took six months to complete, at a total cost of £1,142,131. Taxpayers picked up the bill.
In court last week Sam and Jacinta Hunter admitted waste offences. Sam Hunter, 31, was given a 24-month jail sentence suspended for two years and his mother, aged 59, was handed a 12-month jail term, suspended for two years. Sam Hunter must carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and his mother 80 hours.
There was no order for costs at the court hearing and that will be subject to a separate Proceeds of Crime Act hearing.
The Proceeds of Crime Act is designed to ensure criminals don’t profit from their crimes and money is repaid.
In simple terms, if 8,000 tonnes were dumped on the site and the Hunters charged £120 per tonne, that’s a total of £960,000.
In a statement acting council leader Clr Cathy Scott said: “This is an excellent result and we are pleased that this long-standing case is now complete.
“The clean-up of the 8,000-tonne mountain of waste back in 2017 required a multi-agency approach and proved costly to Kirklees taxpayers, so we are pleased to see those responsible receiving justice.
“We supported the Environment Agency’s prosecution with both evidence and witness statements and, whilst the EA are the prosecuting party, we are hoping to recoup whatever costs we are able under the Proceeds of Crime Act.”