Emissions risk at wood site lands director suspended jail term

David Lewis McEwan handed 18 month suspended sentence for failing to minimise pollution and emissions risk at recycling depot

The former director of a wood waste recycling firm has been handed a suspended prison sentence after failing to clamp down on dust emissions at a site in Northamptonshire.

David Lewis McEwan, who was a director at Larner Timber Recycling, which is no longer trading, was handed a six month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, at Northampton Crown Court on Tuesday (January 13). The sentence came after he admitted that he had failed to minimise the risks of pollution and emissions from the firm’s Wellingborough depot in December.

Dust particles escaped from the waste wood at the Wellingborough site

Dust particles escaped from the waste wood at the Wellingborough site

Mr McEwan was also ordered to pay £1,800 towards Environment Agency costs, and will have to wear an electronic tag for one month.

Larner processed waste pallets and wood, producing woodchip for the panelboard manufacturing industry and material for use in animal bedding at the Wellingborough site, as well as at a further site in Enfield.

The court was told how in May 2012, a ‘huge volume’ of waste wood had been built up at the Wellingborough depot, and that no fire breaks had been installed within the material. It was also claimed that wood particles from chipping were also escaping from the site polluting neighbours’ sites and causing a further breach of its permit.

Anne-Lise McDonald, prosecuting on behalf of the Agency, told the court that Mr McEwan was ‘repeatedly’ asked for adequate management and emissions plans but none were forthcoming until April 2013.

In December 2012 there was a fire at Larner Timber Recycling which started in an old shipping container used to store woodchip. The fire service had difficulty getting to the fire because of the amount of wood on site, it was claimed.

Fire breaks

In May and June 2013 piles of chipped wood were seen smouldering, despite advice from Environment Agency officers to create fire breaks.

In mitigation, the court was told that Mr McEwan had sought to alleviate the risks of pollution from the site by using water cannons to keep the dust down, but he did not have the finances to keep the business going.

In sentencing, Judge Timothy Smith accused Mr McEwan of ‘putting his head in the sand’.

He said: “There were a number of issues with the site with waste being stored for more than three months, water cannons not used effectively and fire breaks not properly installed. The temperature of the waste was not properly monitored to locate hot spots.”


After the hearing, Environment Agency officer John Jones, said: “This prosecution was entirely avoidable had the company complied with our advice. We repeatedly tried to help it comply with its permit but despite many visits and much advice, little was changed.

“Waste sites have a duty to ensure that their operations are managed properly to ensure they do not present a risk to neighbouring companies, nor to the environment. If they refuse to comply, or deliberately ignore advice supplied by site inspectors, they may be prosecuted and risk going to jail.”


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Michael Ryan
Michael Ryan
9 years ago

Will the Environment Agency be helping Shropshire Council protect our health as the response sent on 15 Jan 2015 suggests that expert guidance urgently required?

What steps will Shropshire Council take to ensure no harm to health from emissions from the Harlescott incinerator in Shrewsbury?
(5 August 2013)

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