County court action has been dropped against a man who ran a tip at Lockwood that was burning for months ... but Sam Hunter may still face legal action and even jail.
Residents and business owners near the former Hunter Group tip site off Albert Street were left fuming during the summer when a huge amount of waste was ignited leading to repeated visits from firefighters.
The tip site was eventually abandoned and the clean-up bill is expected to run into several hundred thousand pounds.
The site has still not been fully cleared of all its waste almost a year on.
In January District Judge Claire Jackson postponed the case at Huddersfield County Court after confusion over the precise ownership of the land with Sam Hunter of the Hunter Group, who had operated the site, not attending the hearing.
But after a brief court hearing last Friday Kirklees Council issued a statement explaining that Sam Hunter and his mother, Jacinta Hunter, had “disposed of their interests in two Hunter Group companies and vacated the site” following the start of legal proceedings.
The statement adds: “Therefore no order can be made against either of these companies and it was, therefore, necessary to dismiss the claim against them.”
However, the council said the case against Gerald McCullagh, the leaseholder of the part of the land used by Hunter Group, was more clear-cut.
It said his land “was filled with waste brought onto the land by Hunter Group Ltd.”
But it says the settlement of this claim against him should, hopefully, be finalised within the next 28 days and “the parties should not return to court.”
The settlement, though, will remain confidential.
But it seems Sam and Jacinta Hunter may not escape their responsibilities as the statement went on to say that: “The council are now working with the Environment Agency on our next legal steps with the aim of achieving financial reimbursement or custodial sentence.”
Kirklees councillor Andrew Cooper, (Greens, Newsome), said: “The important thing is that the council and the Environment Agency continue to pursue Sam Hunter and his associates for the damage that they have inflicted on our community and on the local environment, be that a custodial sentence or a significant fine to cover the costs of the damage that has been created.
“Sam Hunter must be pursued until he has been made to account for the damage that he has inflicted on local people and for the wilful disregard he has shown for the law.”