A COUPLE responsible for a huge rubbish mountain that sent stinking smoke and fumes into the air for miles around have been sentenced for waste offences.

The Environment Agency tried for two years to get Stewart and Janice Wagstaff to make their massive waste heap safe, obey waste regulations, reduce the amount of waste they had on the site and get proper training.

But the couple didn’t comply with regulations or agency orders, and continued to add to the heap until it caught fire three times in two months.

After the fires there were still 10,000 tonnes of rubbish on the Great Heck site, south of Selby.

During the second fire in May 2015, 200 people complained to the agency about the noxious fumes coming off it.

Because of the way the waste was stored, there were fears water used by firefighters to combat the blaze would pollute local watercourses as it left the site.

A third fire, in June 2015, sent so much smoke into the air a temporary speed restriction had to be imposed on the nearby M62.

The rubbish stank so much North Yorkshire families living nearby feared for their health.

Judge Simon Batiste told Leeds Crown Court the couple were “wholly ill trained, unsuited and unable to manage a site of this size".

Stewart Wagstaff, 58, of Templar Close, Whitley near Goole, was given a four-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months on condition he does 160 hours’ unpaid work.

Janice Evelyn Wagstaff, 56, of the same address, was given a community order with 120 hours’ unpaid work.

Both were charged as directors of Total Waste Management Ltd of Long Lane, Great Heck, and admitted keeping rubbish in a manner likely to cause harm to human health or pollute the environment from September 2014 to July 2015 when the company went into liquidation.

The agency had to get special funding, including from Selby District Council, for the weeks-long operation to clear the site.

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “The repeated failure of Wagstaff and Wagstaff to meet the lawful regulatory conditions required to safely manage the site presented a significant environmental risk to air quality and drinking water supplies.

“We hope the court’s sentencing decision demonstrates the importance of companies and their directors adhering to environmental permitting rules.”

For the couple Stephen Grattage and Angus MacDonald told Leeds Crown Court they had done everything to try and comply with the agency’s conditions. They had not intended to cause harm and had not been motivated by greed.