A PENSIONER who cleared a council-owned wildlife haven and filled it with contaminated soil has narrowly avoided a prison sentence.

Brian Greening, aged 69, of Tremayne Park, Camborne pleaded guilty to knowingly depositing building waste on land at Tuckingmill Valley Park when he appeared before magistrates in October.

On Friday he received his sentence from Judge Carr, who only suspended his jail term on the promise that Greening would pay Cornwall Council compensation of more than £100,000.

Prosecutor Alex Moore said the offence dated back to October 26, 2016, when a neighbour noticed a swing shovel in the public park, which shares a border with Greening's back garden.

The shovel was being operated to move soil and knock down undergrowth and trees on the council-owned land.

Quantities of soil as deep as 45 feet were being moved and on the following day, more of the same work was being done.

The neighbour spoke to the operator of the vehicle who told him that Greening had instructed him to move the soil from the bottom to the top of the site.

Mr Moore added that when the neighbour asked Greening during a telephone conversation what he was doing, he replied: “It’s not been used for 15 years so I’m claiming it as mine.”

When his actions were investigated by Cornwall Council, the soil was found to contain arsenic and lead, as a result of mining works in the area.

However, there was no indication that moving the soil had caused any secondary cases of contamination to the nearby watercourses or wildlife.

Falmouth Packet:

Tuckingmill Valley Park, in Camborne

Defending, Ramsay Quaife said that Greening was trying to save himself some money in not following the correct procedures.

He said that his client was “of an age” and had been married for almost 50 years. He added that he had not been before a court before.

Mr Quaife said that Greening had not made anything from it and it had caused his family a “great deal of stress”.

“He has not put a toe wrong before but he has nosedived so deep into the criminal justice system – he shows genuine remorse,” said Mr Quaife.

Judge Simon Carr said that to describe Greening’s actions as “fly-tipping” would be “wholly inadequate”.

He said that Greening had known what he was doing following a report he had requested about the soil in 2007.

He said that an aerial photograph of the land looked like something from the Amazon Basin and that his actions were a “deliberate flouting of environmental laws which had a significant adverse effect on wildlife in the area”.

Judge Carr added that an “unedifying turf war” between Cornwall Council and the Environment Agency had delayed the case being brought before the court.

He sentenced Greening to eight months in prison, suspended for two years. He was ordered to pay £100,000 compensation and £22,400 costs – to be paid in full by April 24.