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Waste site errors lead to £95,000 compensation

  Two planning authorities and the Environment Agency have agreed to pay £95,000 in compensation to the neighbours of an unauthorised waste site.

  This payment is being made after the three public bodies allowed illegal waste activities to go unchecked over a seven-year period, according to a joint report from the Local Government Ombudsman and the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

  The payment by the Environment Agency, Lancashire County Council, and Rosendale Borough Council, reflected years of “extreme distress, aggravation and financial loss” suffered by a mother and her son after the Environment Agency and councils did not stop a neighbour from using his land as an illegal landfill site and failed to take appropriate enforcement action.

  From 2000-2007 thousands of tonnes of rubbish was illegally dumped, burned and processed on farmland a few metres from their home. The waste, dumped on land designated as Green Belt, was enough to fill three Olympic-sized swimming pools.

  The complaints about the damage the waste was causing to the environment and their property went unchecked for seven years.

  The report criticises the three public bodies for failing to work together despite the existence of a national protocol which clearly required a coordinated joint approach on waste enforcement. The ombudsmen concluded that the case represented maladministration and injustice.

  Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham said: “Our investigation found that the relevant authorities failed to take urgent or robust enforcement action, despite the very evident and unacceptable activities taking place on the neighbouring farm.”

  Local Government Ombudsman Anne Seex said: “Anyone seeing the evidence of what happened on that land and of the devastation wrought on this beauty spot should be justifiably shocked and outraged that, despite all the legal safeguards in place, such events could actually happen."

  The financial compensation has been divided among the Environment Agency and the councils according to their obligations to use their powers to act on the complaint. They have all accepted the Ombudsmen’s recommendations.

  Read the Local Government Ombudsman press release

  Roger Milne, 21 January 2010

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