Backbench Business — [Unallotted half day] — Metal Theft
Robert Flello (Shadow Minister (Justice); Stoke-on-Trent South, Labour)
I congratulate my hon. Friend Graham Jones, the hon. Members for Dudley South (Chris Kelly) and for Worcester (Mr Walker) and others on securing this debate. In the few minutes that I have, I should like to concentrate on one line in the motion, which calls for
“a radical change in how the scrap metal industry is regulated”.
We have heard a lot about the behaviour of the scrap metal man who goes round in his van, hawking and trying to get bits of scrap metal, and who is, as I mentioned in an earlier intervention, not averse to lifting anything that is not nailed down. Indeed, sometimes he goes so far as to rob roofs and memorials, and to commit other shameful acts.
I want to focus on the scrap metal yards, and on one in particular. I would like to be able to say that it is dear to my heart, but it is quite the opposite. It epitomises the worst aspects of the industry, which we need to stamp out if we are to start to regulate it properly. The people who bought the yard put up two buildings in it, for which they had no planning permission. They built them 15 months ago, irrespective of any rules or regulations, to service the end-of-life processing of vehicles. They also put up CCTV columns. The yard abuts a large housing development; it is right behind people’s houses, and the 360 CCTV cameras can look into those homes. The owners also put up lighting columns that illuminate the yard late into the evening, seven days a week. This, too, was done without planning permission.
The owners also built a wall. Regardless of the fact that the existing planning permission for the area allowed for a 2-metre high fence, they built a wall that was higher than that, so that they could pile the scrap higher. Such a fence was banned under the previous planning permission, which they have ignored. They have also built supports for the wall on council land that they do not even own.
The most incredible thing that those people have done is something that they did quite recently. Residents in the area have understandably expressed concerns about the noise, dust and vibration pollution that they have to put up with. The noise is terrible; the crashing can be heard from a mile away. To get round the problem, the owners came up with a great wheeze. They constructed a wall of shipping containers, piled three high and welded together. And, yes, this was done without planning permission. Thankfully, the council managed to act quickly, and it issued a stop order that has another week to run.