A north Suffolk man claims he has been unfairly treated following his conviction for a bonfire described as “illegal” by the Environment Agency.
Ian Dale Garnham’s annual charity bonfire in Palgrave between November 3-6 last year resulted in the licensed firewood merchant being slapped with a fine of nearly £30,000 at Norwich Magistrates’ Court last Thursday, August 29.
Although Mr Garnham, 44, pleaded guilty to ‘burning in a manner likely to cause pollution or harm human health’, a plea he claims he took as he “naughtily” allowed tyres on the fire, he said the burning primarily involved wood and green waste, which he had brought back to his yard for recycling.
He added that he possesses up-to-date Environment Agency-issued certificates and permits to burn such waste in the open, but that these were not presented in court - something which he believes contributed to the “excessive” fine for a first-time offender who has been in the business for 20 or so years.
Mr Garnham, a tree surgeon who runs Firewood Factory, and used to own Waveney Tree Specialists, has launched an appeal against the “disproportionate” fine resulting from the bonfire, which was attended by about 120 people and raised more than £300 for Children in Need.
The event has been staged for ten years, and has raised thousands of pounds for local and global charities.
Speaking in court, Environment Agency prosecutor Andrew Logan said the blaze, which was staged at The Woodyard, in Upper Rose Lane, where bonfires have taken place for more than four decades, resulted in fire brigades being called, and “toxic and noxious smoke” blowing over the nearby train line.
But Mr Garnham said that the Environment Agency had raised this issue in the past, resulting in him building a ‘dirt bund’ to lift the smoke over the Norwich to London line.
As well as being fined £28,000, Mr Garnham, who has lived in Palgrave all his life, was told to pay £5,800 in costs, and a victim surcharge of £120.
He will now have to wait up to a month to get a date fixed for his appeal, in which he will look to get the court fine - initially set at £40,000, before being cut due to Mr Garnham’s guilty plea - reduced.