Scandal of Wigan firms dumping waste
Environmental bosses have received thousands of reports of wrongdoing in Wigan in two years - yet just one firm has been prosecuted.
Environment Agency (EA) data showed there have been 1,677 reports of pollution in the borough made to the national recording system since October 12, 2016.
However, astoundingly in the period between November 1 of that year and the end of October this year just a single case has ended with the perpetrator being rapped by the courts.
And even that was now more than two years ago.
The shockingly-low rate of getting incidents into court has drawn a strong response from a Wigan political activist and environmentalists, who said more resources are needed to investigate pollution and the whole borough will suffer if there are unlikely to be consequences for wrongdoing.
Wigan and Leigh Green Party chair Will Patterson said: “Like any other quango the EA relies on support from central government, which is too busy backing fracking at every opportunity, subsiding fossil fuels and slashing support for renewables. It’s no surprise it has left it unable to do its job.
“My suspicion is EA staff would love to do more to enforce the laws and regulations, like other departments such as the police.
“What this means is unscrupulous businesses or groups realise they can break the laws without penalty. They will get away with what hey are allowed to get away with.
“That poses a risk to our water quality in canals and rivers, to the quality of our land with spare land ending up as a potential dumping ground for whatever people want to get rid of without going through the proper process and to our air, which is at risk not just from cars and congestion but industrial pollution.
“The whole reason environmental laws are in place is so people do not get away with doing things that damage our land, air and water and cause harm to residents.”
The luckless person and company successfully singled out for further action was Graham Ainscough and Ainscough Skip Hire way back in November 2016.
Wigan Magistrates’ Court hit the firm, which has since gone bust, with more than £42,870 in fines and costs after its yard was left in a chaotic state which completely breached the terms of its waste collection permits.
No other incident brought forward to the EA as an allegation of environmental wrongdoing in the two-year period has got to that stage.
The EA said it was often difficult to pinpoint who was responsible for problems on open land even when complex investigations take place.
And getting such matters through the courts can sometimes require multiple hearings with background work going on for months and even years.
The EA has also stepped in numerous times over the past year to solve borough environmental issues without having to threaten an appearance in front of magistrates.
In July the body rapped a construction firm working in Leigh for piling up its building material on floor defences at a site on Green Fold Way, close to a site of special interest.
The EA also had to step in this autumn to help Lowton residents who had repeatedly complained about a nauseating sickly-sweet smell wafting over the area from a composting operation.
The firm, A Broster Ltd, was given advice and guidance on how to comply with its permits and an odour management plan was put in place to resolve the problems.