By Chris Young
A Bradford business and its owner have been fined thousands of pounds for storing over 170 tonnes of tyres in a Bradford mill without the proper permits.
A court heard that the Environment Agency discovered potentially dangerous conditions during a crackdown on illegal tyre storage following a devastating blaze in the city centre in late 2020.
Waste Tyre Traders Ltd operated out of a former mill on Eastwood Street, storing and bundling tyres that would then be shipped off to be recycled.
This week, the company and its director Iftikhar Ahmed, appeared at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates Court to answer charges of contravening an environmental permit.
Mr Ahmed, 49, of Bradford Road, Keighley, pleaded guilty to the charge, and to an identical charge placed on the company, he was director of.
Nigel Augustin representing the Environment Agency told Magistrates that current legislation means that such businesses are only allowed to store up to 40 tonnes of tyres on-site for a maximum of seven days.
If they store more than 40 tonnes, they require an environmental permit.
Mr Augustin said the Environment Agency attended Eastwood Mills on 21 February, 2021 “due to concerns that a large number of tyres were present.”
He said: “This visit was part of a campaign of checking on waste tyre businesses following a huge tyre fire in November 2020.”
Once inside officers counted around 215 bales of tyres, some standing 12 feet tall. They estimated this would have meant around 172 tonnes of tyres were being stored in the mill.
Magistrates heard that there were no “fire breaks” between many of the bales.
Mr Ahmed was told that as he was way above the 40 tonnes allowed the building was classed as an illegal waste site.
He was ordered to remove the tyres by 21 April.
When officers returned on 25 February, there seemed to be even more tyres in the building, with estimates putting the figure at 208 tonnes.
There were also numerous bales of plastic.
A visit on 23 March found around 187 tonnes of tyres in the building.
On a visit on 7 April, officers saw around 150 tyres outside the building, having seemingly just been delivered.
In visits throughout the summer, officers saw the number of tyres in the mill decrease, but never below 65 tonnes.
Mr Augustin said: “This offending is reckless. Advice and guidance were given. It was made quite clear what they needed to do.
“There was a fire risk and a risk to the environment from storing combustible waste in this way over a long period of time. There was a risk of significant damage to the building and neighbouring buildings, and the environment.”
Mr Hussain, defending Mr Ahmed, told Magistrates the whole case boiled down to the impact of Covid-19.
He said Mr Ahmed took on the business early on in the pandemic and had no idea the devastating impact lockdown would have on the tyre recycling business.
He said: “He made a substantial investment, buying expensive equipment including a machine to bale tyres.”
Magistrates were told that the bales were placed into containers and shipped out to places where they would be recycled.
Mr Hussain said: “Then something extraordinary occurred – we had the worst pandemic we’ve had in over 100 years. It affected the whole world.
“The essence of it was he couldn’t get the tyres shifted. He stopped trading and tried to get the tyres removed, but no containers were available.”
He said that during the height of the pandemic the cost of shipping containers rose from a few hundred pounds to £3,000.
He had hoped things would improve, but the pandemic dragged on.
He told magistrates that although he admitted the offence, Mr Ahmed was “adamant” that he did not increase the number of tyres in the building as the prosecution had made out.
The pandemic had left the defendant in a “very, very dire financial situation,” and the business was no longer trading.
The court heard Mr Ahmed had a previous conviction for a similar offence dating back to 2014.
Chair of the Bench, Mr Khan, said: “Unless you had a crystal ball, no one would know how it would pan out. Nevertheless, the Environment Agency have a job to do.”
Ahmed was fined £320. The business was fined £3,334 and ordered to pay costs of £5,557. Ahmed will be liable for these fines and will have to pay them within six months.