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Unauthorised Encampments, Waste and Fires at Royal Oak and on Land Behind Tesco - Update 12 January 2018


On the evening of 8 December there was a significant fire on the site which required the Fire Service to attend a number of times over the weekend. The Fire Service informed both Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) emergency out of hours service and the Environment Agency (EA) on 9 December.

There are a number of potential offences which can result in prosecution in relation to causing pollution/dark smoke by burning waste on commercial/trade premises. While the detail varies depending on the specific legislation, all require evidence that there was a deliberate action to dispose of the waste by burning as opposed to the fire resulting from an inadvertent act. The relevant enforcing authorities are the EA and MVDC. The Council spoke to EA on 9 December and agreed to liaise on Monday 11 December regarding the investigation of this incident.

Following consideration of the issue the EA confirmed that they would not take follow up action. Having discussed the incident with the Fire Investigation Officer from Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, there was not sufficient evidence to prove a deliberate action and, as a result, the Council concluded that there was no further formal follow up action that could be taken regarding the fire.

Consideration was given to serving a notice to prevent future nuisance caused by smoke. However, in order to serve this notice the Council needed to believe that the nuisance could recur. Given that there was no waste left on the site to burn, it was not appropriate to serve a notice.
Unauthorised Camping
On the evening of Saturday 16 December MVDC became aware that travellers had moved onto the site. It does not provide an out of hour's service in relation to unauthorised traveller encampments but because we were concerned that there might be a link with the previous encampment on the land behind Tesco, the Duty Manager contacted the police to provide them with details of the owners of the site, ascertain if they were considering using their enforcement powers and offer any assistance they could.
On Monday 18 December discussions with partners suggested that there was no reason to believe that there was a link with previous encampment and, as we had provided advice to the owner regarding how to proceed with eviction of travellers from his land, no further action was proposed.

However, late on Monday afternoon (18 December) further information suggested there might be a link with the previous encampment behind Tesco's and, as a result, a multi-agency meeting was set up for the following day.

During the 18 December a number of visits were conducted to the site by several different agencies, including a number of teams from MVDC. While no formal powers were used, the travellers chose to leave following discussion with the Police on Tuesday evening.

Following the travellers leaving the site, MVDC sifted through all the waste searching for evidence as to the source. We continue to work closely with the EA on this. Where MVDC has identified the source of any waste we will write to the waste producer as a first step of potential follow up enforcement action.

Once the process of sifting was complete the owner was contacted to secure the site. Concrete blocks were put in place on Friday 22 December. The fence surrounding the site was broken during the week commencing 2 January. MVDC informed the owner of this on Friday 5 January and he confirmed that this would be repaired. At the time of writing it is expected that this work will be complete on 12 January.
Unauthorised Camping, waste and fires
Travellers moved onto this privately owned site on Wednesday 6 December. Police visited the site with the landowner on the same day. The landowner agreed with the travellers that they would leave on Saturday 9 December. Reports of rubbish dumping were received but, as travellers were still on site with the owner's permission we could not say it had been fly tipped.
The travellers did not leave on Saturday as agreed with the landowner and over the weekend the amount of rubbish being dumped increased significantly. There was also a fire.  As a result, a multi-agency team meeting took place on Monday 11 December and a number of visits were carried out. Throughout this process the team liaised with the owner who attended the Council Offices and visited the site with MVDC Officers and the Police. While no formal enforcement powers were used, the travellers left the site mid- afternoon.  When they left, the travellers set alight a small section of waste which was extinguished by the Fire Service.

A site meeting was held with the landowner and he was advised that he could not clear the waste from the land by burning it as this may create a smoke nuisance.  An Abatement Notice was served on the owner which prohibited him from causing or permitting a smoke nuisance by burning the waste on the site.

Follow up action
A process of sifting the waste began. This was to identify evidence which would prove where the waste had come from.  Where MVDC has identified the source of any waste they will write to the waste producer as a first step of potential follow up enforcement action. In addition, MVDC is continuing to support the EA in their investigation of this incident.
Once the sifting process was complete the owner was informed that they should clear the site. A multi-agency follow up meeting with the owner (Environment Agency, MVDC and Surrey County Council) is planned.

Following a fire on the site over the weekend of 6/7 January officers from MVDC attended on 8 January. Unfortunately, in this instance, a statutory nuisance could not be determined and currently no further legal action can be taken regarding this fire.

However, the seriousness of this incident was discussed with the owner of the land and further monitoring will be carried out.


© 2018 Mole Valley, Pippbrook, Dorking, Surrey, RH4 1SJ.
Tel: +44 (0)1306 885001 Fax: +44 (0)1306 876821, 2018.