Man jailed for fire that shut schools and cost £1m

A man who ran a waste tyre site where a fire blazed for almost three weeks and caused schools to close has been jailed for 12 months.

Stuart Bedford was told by a judge he was "reckless" to have ignored advice to clear the site on Spring Mill Street in Bradford before a fire started on 16 November 2020.

It was not put out until 5 December, costing the fire service more than £1.1m, and caused 25 schools to temporarily close.

Bedford, 62, of Harrogate, was jailed at Bradford Crown Court on Tuesday after admitting operating an unauthorised regulated facility and keeping controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution and harm to human health.

Joseph Millington, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court that Bedford was the "controlling mind" behind the site, despite his wife, Vicky, being director of the company running the property.

Vicky Bedford, 51, of Ripon, was described as a "straw director" but accepted she held some responsibility.

She received a 12-month community order after admitting the same charges.

Stuart Bedford "agreed that the pile of tyres was too high and too close to the trees" after numerous warnings from local authorities, the prosecution said.

But "a large quantity of tyres remained on this site throughout", Mr Millington added.

He said: "Mr Bedford could be in no doubt of not only the illegality of his actions but the concerns the authorities had about him."

Fire services were deployed to the site from 16 November until 5 December, costing £1,135,000, according to the prosecution.

Mr Millington added schools were closed, as were railway lines to Bradford.

Following this, further concerns were raised about another site the pair ran in Doncaster, where Mr Millington said "illegal activity" was also being conducted.

'You deliberately broke the law'

While Stuart Bedford was described as "not a man of good character", by the prosecution, the court was told Vicky Bedford had shown "good character" and "remorse".

Ben Thomas, mitigating for Stuart Bedford, said he "wishes to apologise to the city and its citizens for what happened".

He said he expressed a "deep sense of shame for his actions".

Upon passing sentence, Judge Jonathan Gibson told him: "There is no doubt in my mind that you deliberately broke the law.

"You knew from an early stage that the number of tyres that you stored in either of the sites was vastly more than any exemption certificate would have had for either of those sites."

He added: "You were reckless in the true meaning of the word."

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