ILLEGAL car breakers blighting parts of Portsmouth have been targeted by Environment Agency officers in a major crackdown on environmental crime across the area.
Six operators in Portsmouth and East Hampshire that were dismantling vehicles illegally received a surprise visit from officers, who had been observing them.
One yard had already been warned during a previous raid that it needed to have a permit from the Environment Agency or stop operating, after officers found fuel and oils leaking into the ground.
The action follows an event in the area in July, which saw the Environment Agency invite car breakers that may be operating illegally to speak to officers anonymously to find out more about cleaning up their act.
They offered to guide operators through the process, with the promise ‘Show us you’re trying and we’ll help you all the way’.
Steve Jakubowski, Hampshire and Isle of Wight waste team leader with the Environment Agency issued a stern warning.
He said: ‘Our message to illegal car breakers is it’s time to get “legit” and get a licence – or stop what they’re doing. They need to know we’re watching them.
‘We’re saying to them it’s time to make a fresh start and sort out the paperwork, so they can stop looking over their shoulder and worrying about losing their business or even facing criminal action.’
It is a criminal offence to collect, carry, store or break vehicles without an environmental permit, and that removing parts such as wheels, lights, batteries and catalytic converters still counts as breaking – even if it is done on the back of a truck.
All vehicle breakers need to apply for an environmental permit and they get one only if they can show that their business is safe to local people and the environment.
The Environment Agency inspects sites regularly, and records and scores any breaches of a permit. It is a criminal offence not to comply with the conditions of a permit or the regulations.
A number of car breakers have previously been prosecuted by the organisations, which now has powers to block the yard of illegal operators and seize their vehicle and profits.
The impact of illegal waste sites is estimated at £98m, with illegal car breakers among the worst offenders.
Vehicle breakers can get help applying for an environmental permit by calling 03708 506506, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also find out more by visiting www.gov.uk/government/publications/environment-permit-pre-application-advice-form