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The operators of a metal waste disposal and reclamation yard have triumphed in their High Court fight to overturn an Environment Agency notice suspending its activities on noise pollution grounds.
Numerous complaints about ‘unpredictable loud bangs and crashes’ coming from the Parkhall Works in Stoke-on-Trent had led to the Agency issuing a notice under the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2010. The licence to operate the yard had been transferred to European Metal Recycling (EMR) after it acquired the site and invested substantially in growing the business. The increase in activity led to a substantial increase in the number of complaints about noise.
The notice directed that all movement of waste onto, around and off the site should be suspended until the noise issue was addressed. However, EMR have now succeeded in a High Court challenge to the notice.
Judge Mark Pelling QC upheld EMR’s complaints that the notice was too ‘vague and imprecise’ to be valid in that it failed to specify what steps, if any, needed to be taken to rectify the noise problem. It also failed to provide a defined threshold of noise levels that would be considered acceptable.
Observing that the issue was of vital importance to the company, the judge said, “The losses caused to EMR by a suspension in the terms adopted by the Environment Agency in this case would inevitably be substantial and the potential effect on employees at the site even more serious.”
In the Court’s view, EMR’s challenge to the Agency’s conclusion that operations on the site ‘posed a serious risk of pollution’ was unsustainable. The suspension notice was overturned, however, as the Court held that the Agency was not entitled to ‘require the elimination of a risk of serious pollution without identifying the steps by which that was to be achieved’.