The Environment Agency also wants to see composters attend a formal training course, which will also have a cost implication, although in fairness many other industries require operators to undergo training before being able to carry out work. This training may well cost in excess of £1,500.
The East Riding of Yorkshire is home to a significant number of composting operations, most of which cause very few problems and don’t come to the notice of residents, the Council, or the Environment Agency. I have a great deal of sympathy for those farmers, who have diversified into composting as a replacement for conventional fertilisers and operated in a responsible manner, and are now going to have to pay increased fees for regulation.
Unfortunately a small minority of composters operating under a licence exemption have not followed the rules and have caused serious odour problems for local residents and whole villages. The composting of animal by-products is a concern to me, especially if the raw materials are transported from far away, and not composted correctly or for sufficient time, resulting in the foulest smells imaginable.
It is clear that the past regime of self-policing has not worked for this small minority of composters, and it would appear that the new charges represent the industry being made to pay for the actions of the few.
Bringing all composting operations into the general permitting framework is a positive step and will be good for the industry as a whole, and certainly good for the public. It is always a question of balance between regulation and cost, and I would hope that the charges to be levied are based solely on the costs for regulation rather then yet another stealth tax.