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Rogue Traders: John Ovenell, Cheap and Cheerful Clearance

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Elham Rizi | 18:30 UK time, Thursday, 19 April 2012


Kent-based John Ovenell offers his customers "Cheap and Cheerful Clearance" of their waste. But despite charging what could be considered reasonable prices, his services haven't left everyone so cheerful.

John Ovenell


Kaloyan Todorov paid John Ovenell to pick up some rubbish. He thought it had been taken care of until Kent County Council called him up to tell him that they had found his waste flytipped on the side of the road.

Not only was the rubbish a blight on the landscape in that area, it could have had landed Mr Todorov in court. Under Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act, everyone has a responsibility for ensuring that their own waste is deposited at an authorised site. Last year, Swale Borough Council in Kent prosecuted three people whose rubbish ended up in the wrong place. Luckily, the council didn't pursue matters with Mr. Todorov, as he could prove that he had paid to have his waste disposed of by someone who he thought was authorised to do so.

Of course, the greater responsibility lies with the fly-tipper. Leaving waste on any land without an environmental permit can lead to a fine of up to £50,000 or imprisonment.
But this didn't seem to have been on John Ovenell's mind when he dealt with Rogue Trader's rubbish.

We called him out to a house in Kent, where our homeowner Nicki was waiting with a standard pile of household waste, including a mattress, a sofa and a desk. To make absolutely certain we could identify our waste after we collected it, we sprayed it with a special UV spray and added a few distinctive pieces from the Rogue Trader's props cupboard, such as a red wig and a pair of "Dimbleby" pants. We also added a tracking device to the pile to help us monitor the progress of the waste.

While John was collecting the rubbish at the house, he warned Nicki not to throw away any letters or bank statements as her details could be used by identity fraudsters. But he also must have known that if the council were to find the waste fly tipped, any details in the rubbish identifying her could lead investigators back to him.

John also told Nicki that he would sort out the rubbish before putting it in skips and bins. For example, he told her that he would take some of the bricks he had previously collected to Bexley tip. This would be good practice, but unfortunately it turned out not to be true.

At around 4am on the following day, he was tracked by our team to a spot near Meopham, Kent where he dumped a mixture of our waste and someone else's on the roadside. The rubbish damaged a nearby gate to an apple orchard and made it impossible for anyone to drive through the entrance into the field.

To check whether this act of fly-tipping was a one-off, we called him out to another house to pick up more household waste. This time, he told our homeowner an anecdote about people frequently asking for his waste carrier licence. He implied that he had a licence, but this turned out not to be true. He doesn't have a waste carrier's licence, so it is illegal for him to charge to pick up customer's rubbish.

Just like the first time, he failed to take the rubbish to a tip. Our team followed him from Kent to Esher in Surrey, where at 1.20am he fly-tipped our rubbish next to a Rugby Club.

We then confronted John Ovenell with our allegations, namely that he had been breaking the law by charging customers for waste disposal without holding a waste-carrier's licence, and by leaving the rubbish in unauthorised places. He responded by flatly denying fly-tipping. He admitted he doesn't have a waste carrier's license but does have the form to apply for one. He apologised to us, and to the farmer and said he's not going to collect waste anymore, not even for £1,000. As a gesture, he picked up the rubbish from Esher and deposited it back at the rented house which we had called him out to. He threatened to sue us if we ever put him on television. Presumably, this episode of Rogue Traders will not make him very cheerful.

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