18 November 2013

New licensing laws should combat scrap metal theft

Councils have been given new powers to licence scrap metal dealers in a bid to combat theft. 

Scrap metal theft has been a growing problem for councils up and down the country and has seen trains disrupted, memorials desecrated, artwork stolen, church and library roofs vandalised, and manhole covers, gully covers and road signage stolen.

A 2012 survey showed that 7 out of 10 councils had been victims of metal theft costing them over £5.24 million in 2010/11.

In Brighton & Hove there were eleven reports of metal theft made to Sussex Police between the end of September and the end of October 2013.  These included complaints of lead being stolen from roofs, exhausts being taken from cars and brass door fittings removed from homes.  The most high profile metal theft in the city was in 2007 when the bronze statue of Olympic champion Steve Ovett was stolen from the entrance to Preston Park.

The new Scrap Metal Dealers Act aims to tackle the growing problem of metal theft by supporting legitimate scrap metal dealers and providing councils with more powers to tackle unscrupulous operators.

In addition, it requires a national register of dealers to be set up and maintained by the Environment Agency with all local authorities supplying regular updated information.

Every scrap metal dealer will be required to have a licence and operating without one will become a criminal offence. Councils will have the power to vary, refuse, or revoke an existing licence.

The act creates two different types of licences - a site licence which allows a dealer to carry on business at any sites in the areas and a collector’s licence allowing dealers who do not have a site and regularly collect through door to door collections.

Collectors working in different areas will require a licence from each local Authority area they collect in. Licences, valid for three years will be displayed on site premises and on vehicles used by collectors.

The act also introduces a ‘suitable person’ test which is used to establish whether the applicant is a suitable person to operate as a dealer. This will include a disclosure and barring service check, and other enforcement information from the police, environment agency and other local authorities.

Cllr Stephanie Powell, chair of the Licensing Committee said:  “Scrap metal theft is a growing problem for councils and the effects can be extremely serious, particularly when roofs and highways are affected.

“We welcome these new powers which will root out unscrupulous operators while ensuring that legitimate and law abiding dealers are properly licensed.”

The new laws were introduced in October.