Nursery proprietor John O'Callaghan fined 31k for burning waste on a bonfire

Waste and smouldering rubbish on John O'Callaghan's site, Aston Clinton Road, Aylesbury
Waste and smouldering rubbish on John O'Callaghan's site, Aston Clinton Road, Aylesbury

With what is believed to be the highest financial penalty imposed for a Buckinghamshire County Council planning enforcement breach, Wycombe magistrates on Wednesday (March 15) handed Mr O'Callaghan a £38,185 bill, including £6,885 costs and a £300 victim surcharge, which he must pay at £2,000 a month.

The landmark court sentence followed more than a year's investigation and evidence gathering by Buckinghamshire County Council enforcement officers Olivia Stapleford and Ian Prosser.

Mr O'Callaghan, of Coxhill Way, Aylesbury, had previously admitted breaching two planning notices served in March last year (2016), ordering him to stop importing waste on to land he rents next door to his nursery business in Aston Clinton Road, and to remove it.

But, the court heard, even after the notices were issued he continued to import a mixture of household, garden and building waste on to the site, and burn it on big bonfires.

Complaints from neighbouring residents started in November 2015, and when enforcement officers visited, Mr O'Callaghan failed to produce any authorisation allowing him to import and process waste. So they took enforcement action.

Meanwhile, complaints mounted to more than 100, and Mr O'Callaghan was arrested on January 21 (2017) after he failed to appear at three previous court hearings.

At court on January 23 he pleaded guilty, and magistrates adjourned, ordering him to produce business accounts, income evidence and details of his assets. Sentence was finally passed last Wednesday.

Warren Whyte, Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet Member for Planning and Environment, said he believed the fine was the highest for any enforcement contravention in the County Council's 128-year history.

"Let this act as a warning to those contravening planning control that it carries very stiff penalties, and that we will rigorously investigate flagrant breaches of the law," said Warren. "Mr O'Callaghan's actions have resulted in untold misery for neighbouring residents and I applaud the determination of our enforcement team to prosecute this case, which is what our residents would expect of us."