"Unscrupulous" companies who tip too much waste into landfill sites will have three strikes until they face action.

Hertfordshire County Council sets limits on the amount of building material or other waste that can be tipped at a ‘landfill’ site.

But its development control committee heard on Thursday (January 23) that “unscrupulous” operators had over-tipped at some of these sites.

They heard that the county council had found it difficult to obtain redress  – with some operators selling-on the sites, claiming they are close to bankruptcy or ‘disappearing’.

And at the meeting, council officers outlined plans for a new ‘enforcement protocol’ that would lead to quicker enforcement action – and could prevent over-tipping.

The revised protocol highlights the need for ‘regular’ monitoring visits – with more frequent visits for sites that are complex and with a history of non-compliance.

And it outlines plans for enforcement action to be triggered automatically if council officers found a breach of planning permission – such as over-tipping – on three consecutive visits.

Planning officer Ian Prosser told the committee: “. . . we have regrettably some pretty unscrupulous waste disposal operators within the county.

“We have four sites where there is significant over-tipping and addressing that has become – under the existing protocol – very difficult to deal with.”

Mr Prosser said that under the proposed protocol, after a site was found to be in breach for the second time the operator would be given a warning.

And he said a third beach – on the third consecutive visit – would trigger enforcement action.

At the meeting the approach was backed by members of the development control committee.

And it will now be further considered by cabinet panels and the cabinet before a final decision is taken.

Cllr Michael Muir suggested the council was being “generous” in the three-visit time-frame – pointing to the amount of ‘rubbish’ or aggregate that could be dumped in   the period between the visits.

But Mr Prosser stressed the protocol would not prevent the council taking immediate action where they found a significant breach.

During the meeting, Cllr Jeff Jones asked if there was or could be a system of databases that would include ‘unscrupulous’ operators.

And reference was made to the previous practice of authorities seeking financial bonds in advance of such work in the past – which have been ruled out by the government.

It was suggested the council could lobby for the rules to be changed so bonds could be used.

And this is likely to be considered further by the county council’s growth, infrastructure, planning and the economy cabinet panel.

Applications for landfill sites can be made as part of a development where land needs to be reshaped, such as a golf course.

Or more commonly they are made following the excavation of one of the county’s sand and gravel quarries.