A judge will ultimately decide who must pay for the clean up of a controversial waste tip site.
Kirklees Council has brought a case against Sam Hunter, his mother Jacinta and two other men, Gerald Anthony McCullagh and Damien Lee Richardson over the former Hunter Group tip in Lockwood.
The council had sought injunctions to control operations at the tip in Queens Mill Road, which the council claims had breached permissions over the amount of waste dumped.
The case at Huddersfield County Court involved several companies believed to have links to Mr Hunter. These were: Hunter Group (Yorkshire) Ltd, Sam H Services Ltd, Huddersfield Skip Services Ltd and Hunter Waste Management Ltd.
Last month the tip site burst into flames and has continued to burn deep inside.
Firefighters continue to visit the site regularly but local residents and businesses have health fears over the fumes and smoke drifting from the waste pile.
The site has been abandoned and Kirklees Council has said it will send in contractors to clear the waste.
On Tuesday the council’s Cabinet allocated an amount of money for the clear up but says it will take several months to remove the waste mountain.
The council has pledged to try to recoup the money from those responsible but there have been warnings the final bill could fall to council taxpayers.
Kirklees Council has refused requests from the Examiner to reveal how much money has been set aside, claiming “commercial confidentiality.”
The case now appears to hinge on who is responsible for the clean up and an investigation is underway over the ownership of the site, which has been split into two.
Mr Ben Williams, representing Mr Hunter, told the court the issues for half of the site “crystallised” around a ‘lease’ between Mr McCullagh and another company, S H Clearance Ltd, thought to be linked to Mr Hunter. However, that company had since been dissolved.
Mr Williams asked: “How can a dissolved company enter into a new lease?”
If responsibility fell to Mr Hunter to clean up the site it would be “unaffordable” to him, said Mr Williams.
Adjourning the hearing, District Judge Claire Jackson said she did not have enough information to progress the case.
She added: “I need to get to the right answer. Whoever caused the problem are the people who should pay.”
The judge said she sympathised with Lockwood residents who were living with a “smouldering mess on their doorstep.”
She added: “It is with a great deal of reluctance that I adjourn this matter. I cannot imagine the effect this smoking rubbish is having on local residents.
“First the fire needs to be put out and the site cleared, and if the council is to clean it up somebody has to pay for that.
“I don’t think it’s right that the taxpayers of Kirklees should pay.”
The case was adjourned for 35 days and will be listed on a date yet to be fixed.
The clean-up of an illegal tip site in Scout Hill, Dewsbury – which burned for a month in 2010 – cost £400,000.
Kirklees Council says the Hunters tip will take “a number of months” to clear.
Mr Hunter has refused to speak to the Examiner and a reporter confronted him outside court.
Asked if he would pay for the clear up he didn’t reply but gave the reporter a two-fingered gesture.