A County Durham man repeatedly burned waste on an illegal waste site producing “toxic smoke” despite repeatedly being told to stop, a court heard.

Christopher Williams, 64, of Acton Dene in Stanley was given a suspended prison sentenced by Peterlee Magistrates on April 18 after he pleaded guilty to two charges of operating an illegal waste site non-compliant with an Environment Agency notice.

Items found at the site at School House Farm in Kiln Pit Hill included a metal garage door, plastic guttering, wood, a trolley and a fridge, as investigators discovered a pile of ash nearly one metre high.

Read more: Pictures show heavy damage of fire on Yarm Back Lane, Stockton

The Northern Echo: Burned waste at the site.Burned waste at the site. (Image: ENVIRONMENT AGENCY)

Andrew Turner, area environment manager for the Environment Agency in the North East, said this latest sentence is a “message to others” that the agency will hand out tough sentences for those who flout the law.

He said: “Environmental permits are in place for the protection of the public and environment and waste crime such as this – burning waste like plastics and treated wood that produces a toxic smoke – can be extremely damaging.

The Northern Echo: Furniture found at the site.Furniture found at the site. (Image: ENVIRONMENT AGENCY)

“Our officers repeatedly told Williams to stop burning waste and clear it from the land but he deliberately disregarded their advice and the law.

“We take all waste crime seriously and I hope this sentence sends out a message to others that we will take tough action against those who flout the rules.

The Northern Echo: A shocking amount of waste was found at the site.A shocking amount of waste was found at the site. (Image: ENVIRONMENT AGENCY)

An investigation into Williams first began in March 2020, after a report was filed complaining of burning on School House Farm land.

Officers then found out he ran a business that helped organisations, including schools and other charities, to clear items.

The Northern Echo: Piles of ash at the site.Piles of ash at the site. (Image: ENVIRONMENT AGENCY)

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The court then later heard that Williams regularly dumped and burned some of that waste at the site, and repeatedly failed to clear the waste following Environment Agency warnings.

The court was told that Williams had twice been convicted in the past nine years for similar offences involving waste burning.

Magistrates decided that although a custodial sentence was inevitable, it could be suspended on account of the guilty pleas and testimonials from people who had been supported by donations received.

Williams was sentenced to 36 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs.

Anyone wishing to report waste crime can call the 24-hour Environment Agency hotline on 0800-807060.