The Forum of Private Business has responded with shock and dismay to the news, saying that, rather than making an enemy of small businesses, the Environment Agency should be working with them.
‘This is a serious development which the FPB views with real unease,’ says FPB chief executive Nick Goulding. ‘The Environment Agency’s chief executive Barbara Young asserts that “a jail sentence…acts as a more effective deterrent than a fine that represents little more than back pocket cash”. Moreover, its press release tells us it is not good news that the average fine on firms is down hundreds of pounds. This cavalier attitude towards people’s livelihoods is wrong and out of touch with this country’s reputation for enterprise and fairness.
‘A civil action involving a fine or penalty is the right punishment for these type of offences. The antagonistic relish of the Environmental Agency’s statement reflects an unreasonable desire to blacken the name of business. The FPB urges the Environment Agency to rethink its approach and do all in its power to support and help small businesses in the way they treat the environment.’
Announcing the aggressive new policy, Howard Davidson, Regional Director of the Environment Agency said, ‘Our message to companies and individuals who commit environmental crimes or cut corners at the expense of the environment is that it will not be tolerated. Where we have the evidence we will prosecute. It is time for businesses to put the environment at the heart of their operations.’
One of the first ASBOs was dished out to a man who was found guilty of burning skip-loads of waste at his site instead of disposing of the waste legally. He was also ordered to pay £11,445 in costs and given 240 hours community service – just one step below a custodial sentence.