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HOAD'S WOOD: A TRAGIC TALE OF BRITAIN'S ILLEGAL WASTE SCANDAL

Dear Supporter,

By way of introduction, Rescue Hoad’s Wood is campaign for an immediate clean-up of thousands of tonnes of illegally dumped landfill waste in Hoad’s Wood, near Bethersden, Kent.

Our campaign is born out of the local community’s collective dismay and frustration over the environmental disaster that has been allowed to develop within Hoad’s Wood. We, as a community, started reporting on this criminal act at the beginning of 2020 when a very large area of the woodland was illegally felled in the very spot that mountains of landfill waste now reside.  Back then, an injunction was put in place within two weeks of initial reports.  Please remember that.

Our reporting picked up again in July 2023 when an identical truck from 2020 and a digger arrived to widen the access track to the illegally felled area.  A local called the Police who told him it was an Ashford Borough Council matter.  The Council then told him it was a multi-agency operation involving the Environment Agency and the Highways Agency. He asked if it was legitimate to which the answer was yes.  The local stopped reporting after that because he naturally trusted the explanation. A plot owner contacted us recently to relay his experience, again in July 2023.  He quotes, “It’s horrific. I was in the woods when it first kicked off and blocked the guy in with his car and had an argument with him. Called the Police, who weren’t interested, called Ashford Borough Council, the phones weren’t answered, called the Environment Agency and they just logged it. It was so frustrating watching it happen whilst nothing was done about it!”.  We’ve also seen over 20 reports from another plot holder who was passed from pillar to post and even told that no crime was committed.  These reports are the tip of the iceberg.

After that, many people filed reports to the Police, Ashford Borough Council, Environment, Agency, and Natural England. All were told repeatedly that “it is part of a multi-agency operation or that it is being dealt with by the Environment Agency and the Police.”  The reports went on through August, September October, November, December and January.  During this time, up to 20-30 trucks a day – many without number plates – thundered at high speeds through Hothfield and Bethersden to deliver their toxic legacy. A resident even timed the trucks which passed their house every eight minutes. It’s a miracle that someone was not killed.  Yet nothing was done.

It wasn’t until the TalkTV filmed a lorry without numberplates arriving at the wood in the second week of January that action was taken. We were told, by the Environment Agency, that when an enforcement order is applied for, it only takes seven days to be processed. The order was given on the 16th of January 2024, implying that the paperwork was submitted on the 9th of January, nearly 7 months after the initial reports of criminal damage being perpetrated on an already legally protected Site of Special Scientific Interest or an SSSI.  Think back for a moment to the immediate response in back in 2020.

For context, Section 28G of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 places a duty on all public bodies to further the conservation and enhancement of the features for which an SSSI has been notified.  Hoad’s Wood is an SSSI.  We are told that a reason for the delay was to “gather evidence”. Well, we now have a staggering volume of stinking putrid evidence, sitting some 25 feet deep in places across a vast area of a designated SSSI.  It certainly seems to us that the authorities failed in their duties.

The fact that the presence of the digger preparing the site in July did not trigger an immediate and robust response is frankly scandalous. We cannot accept “gathering evidence” as a justification for allowing the situation to escalate to the point of an environmental and local community crisis. The lack of a timely intervention has not only destroyed a legally protected site and the wildlife therein but has also significantly impacted the health and well-being of the local community.  If tens of thousands of tons of illegally dumped hazardous landfill over 7 months by illegally driven vehicles were required as evidence, it feels as if that the wildlife in the woods and the local community have been treated as acceptable collateral damage. This is completely unacceptable.

The site now gives off hydrogen sulphide gas. Several members of the community can detect, from within their own bedrooms at times, the tell-tale sickly sweet rotten egg smell that comes with this toxic gas.  Exposure to hydrogen sulphide, even at low levels, over a prolonged period is harmful to your health.  As the site decomposes, it is only going to get worse and affect a wider area.  Furthermore, the site is already showing signs of leachate, or highly toxic water, that will seep into the River Beult, a tributary to the Medway, presenting further environmental and public health issues.

We feel deeply let down by the failure to prevent this disaster, underscoring a desperate need for accountability and action. As such, we called for a community meeting on 15 March 2024 as a first step in our demand for an immediate clean-up of the site.  Pursuing the criminals to clean it up will take too long and is, in all probability, highly unlikely.  The authorities must therefore clean this site up now and do their best to recover the monies from the perpetrators. 

To sum up, the authorities now need to demonstrate their commitment to the local community and the protection of our natural environment. Our call for action and accountability must be met with the urgency and seriousness it deserves. After all our natural heritage, community well-being, and trust in local governance and national agencies are very much at stake.

We hope that you feel the same way.  We would be most grateful if you could show your support by signing and sharing our petition far and wide.

Thank you.