Vehicle breakers fined for overspill at Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate

Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate near the village of Shipdham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate near the village of Shipdham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A vehicle breakers yard has been fined and its company director given community service after it over-spilled on to land it was not allowed to use.

VJ Commercials, based on Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate, was fined £24,000 for two offences and ordered to pay £13,000 prosecution costs.

Director John Manoukian was given a 12-month community order requiring him to carry out 180 hours of unpaid service as well as a £12,000 fine. He was also ordered to pay £4,000 costs.

The company was legally permitted to operate on the former airfield but after running out of room began to use three unlawful sites including the former runway.

Despite being warned by the Environment Agency (EA) that the company was in breach of the law a number of times, VJ Commercials continued to operate illegally for at least 12 months.

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Manoukian had also told investigators if he had cleared the runway site he would not be able to continue the business.

When EA officers visited the airfield they saw scrap vehicles on the runway, oil spills and vehicles leaking oil.

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Another unit at the airfield was also being used to illegally store waste prior to disposal.

In sentencing, Judge Katharine Moore said: 'In my view, it is no coincidence that the amount of waste on the site increased as the price of scrap metal fell.'

She added: 'This was a calculated commercial decision.

'I unhesitatingly take the view that the breach was deliberate and for financial gain.'

The fact the site is now working within legal parameters was considered a mitigating factor.

A spokesman for VJ Commercials said: 'There is no justice in the world.

'Everyone tries to push small businesses out of business.'

Shipdham Airfield

RAF Shipdham was built in 1942 and first housed US Air Force (USAF) heavy bombers.

It was home to the 319th Bombardment Group (Medium), which left after just a few months to move to RAF Horsham St Faith, and then it became the base for the 44th Bombardment Group (Heavy).

The 44th Bomb Group's operations included assaults against strategic targets in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Romania, Austria, Poland, and Sicily. After the unit left in 1945 the base was used as a transit centre for German prisoners of war (PoWs) before being sold off between 1957 and 1963.

Since then it has been used as a private airfield after being refurbished and is used by Shipdham Flying Club. Other parts of the site are now part of Shipdham Airfield Industrial Estate.

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