Bidwell Metals: First ever UK scrapyard shut down due to noise pollution complaints

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Aluminiumschrott (Foto: Marc Weigert)

London, UK — A Somerset scrapyard that caused the ‘worst noise nuisance’ an Environment Agency expert has ever experienced is to close. Bidwell Metals Ltd (BML) operates a long-established scrap metal business near Radstock, Bath. Its activities caused complaints from nearby residents about excessive noise. The company holds an environmental permit, but it was waste activities carried out under a system known as ‘exemptions’ that caused a nuisance.

In February 2016, Bidwell Metals Ltd was informed by the Environment Agency that its waste exemption activities were being de-registered and would therefore have to stop. The decision was taken after the Agency’s national noise expert, Jon Tofts, visited BML and concluded the noise nuisance was the ‘worst he had ever experienced in his career’. Most of the noise came from an aluminium shredding machine, but there was also noise from forklift trucks, angle grinders and mechanical grabs. Up to 10 local properties were affected – three very seriously.

The company challenged the decision and applied for a judicial review. It argued the Agency had incorrectly applied UK and EU law and that the company had acquired a ‘prescriptive right’ to cause a noise nuisance because of the length of time the business had been in existence. It also alleged the Agency had failed to consider BML’s property rights under Human Rights law.

It is the first time the Agency has had to take such action against a waste site because of the extreme levels of noise pollution. A judicial review was set for 19 to 20 October 2016. On the first day of the hearing at Bristol High Court, Bidwell Metals Ltd withdrew its claim after the Agency agreed to postpone enforcement action in return for the company agreeing to the following Consent Order, the conditions of which are:

  • for BML to cease trading under its permit and exemptions at the site by 30 April 2017
  • as far as reasonably practicable, clear the site of all waste and scrap metal and inspect and clear site drainage and interceptors by 30 June 2017 and inspect the condition of the site and make good any polluted areas by 31 October 2017

Pete Hart of the Environment Agency said: „This is a great outcome for the environment and people and shows the Agency is prepared to take firm action against those whose operations are simply in the wrong place and cause misery to local people. We tried to bring about change at this site through advice and guidance and did a great deal of noise assessment to quantify and characterise the extent of nuisance. Eventually, we were left with no choice other than to put a stop to the exempt operations that were causing so much noise pollution.“

If Bidwell Metals Ltd fails to comply with the Consent Order, the Environment Agency can take action against it for contempt of court.

Source: Environment Agency, UK