Local resident ‘fobbed off’ about illegal waste dumping at TBA site

Date published: 13 March 2018

A local resident feels like he has been “fobbed off” by a response to a Freedom of Information request about waste dumped on the former Turner Brothers Asbestos site (TBA).

In July 2016, residents expressed outrage after discovering that the TBA site was being used as a dumping ground for industrial waste – without permission from the council.

By law, the tipping of waste materials requires planning consent and an environment permit is required by the Environment Agency. Trucks were filmed arriving at the site on Rooley Moor Road, unloading mounds of waste and driving away empty almost daily.

The waste still remained on site eight months later, and a complaint logged with the Environment Agency.

The Freedom of Information request asked:

  1. What contact has been made with the owners or their representatives?
  2. What contact has been made with the company undertaking the illegal tipping (Digway)?
  3. Have any of the piles of rubbish been inspected? How many?
  4. Have the EA found any hazardous or dangerous material in any of these piles?
  5. What plans have the owners of the site made to get these piles of rubbish removed?
  6. Has any contact been made with the council?
  7. Have the EA replied to the complaint made by the council with regard to illegal tipping (July 2016)?

The Environment Agency responded:

“In relation to points 1 – 5 above we are neither able to confirm nor deny whether we hold such information, as to do so would be contrary to the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). 

“The information requested is therefore exempt by virtue of Regulation 13(5) of the EIR.  This Regulation explains that:

13 (5)   For the purposes of this regulation a public authority may respond to a request by neither confirming nor denying whether such information exists and is held by the public authority, whether or not it holds such information, to the extent that...

(a)  the giving to a member of the public of the confirmation or denial would contravene any of the data protection principles…    

“We consider that to confirm or deny the existence of the requested information would contravene the first data protection principle.  In this case, we consider it would be unfair to confirm or deny that we hold the information requested.  In confirming or denying that the information requested is held, we would be revealing something about a named individual, specifically whether or not they are being, or have been investigated by the Environment Agency.  This would be personal data about the individual, who would have a reasonable expectation that information about whether or not they were being investigated would remain confidential.

“Please note that our refusal to neither confirm nor deny whether we hold the information requested does not indicate that such information exists.

“Finally please note that EIR Regulation 12(5)(b) applies because disclosure would adversely affect the course of justice, the ability of a person to receive a fair trial or the ability of a public authority to conduct an inquiry of a criminal or disciplinary nature, specifically with this information. We are currently conducting a criminal investigation as to this matter. Disclosure of any information from that investigation would adversely affect the ability of the Environment Agency to conclude criminal investigations and prosecutions.  Suspects knowing that information will be released are likely to be less co-operative and this would therefore significantly hamper the Environment Agency investigation and our ability to conduct criminal investigations.

“In relation to point 6 we can confirm that we have made contact with the Council regarding the investigation, however as above we are not in a position to release that information due to its ongoing nature and the risk that disclosure could adversely impact upon it.

“In relation to point 7 we are not in a position to respond as we need additional information. Have you a reference number or name that could assist us in identifying the specific complaint that you are referring to. Upon receipt of any this information we will be more than happy to assess if we can disclose anything further.”

The resident has confirmed he will appeal.

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